HIV Disclosure–How to Respond When Someone Shares Their Status With You

Often it is emphasized how someone who has HIV needs to disclose their status to someone before they have sex (and in some locations could face legal concerns if they don’t). However, sometimes someone will want to share about their status with friends, family, etc. for a variety of reasons. It could be that someone trusts a friend and wants to share that fact about themselves, or simply is hoping for support and affirmation. While often we can find information about how someone can disclose their HIV it seems to be harder to find writing about how the person being disclosed to can appropriately respond when someone trusts them enough to share their status. As when someone tells you anything about his or herself there are a multitude of caring ways to respond as well as less supportive ways. Let’s look at this chart for examples:

hiv-disclosure

As can be seen, when someone shares their HIV-positive status with you emphasizing that you support them and care about about them is important. You may notice that many of the phrases to avoid carry a negative tone such as such sex-negative questions as, “Who gave it to you/how did you get it/why am I not surprised,” or even more offensively create the impression that you feel HIV is an automatic death-sentence you are fearful about and not a chronic condition–e.g., “How long do you have/I’m not gonna get it, am I?”

If someone tells you they are HIV-positive it is normal to have questions–anytime friends share anything about themselves we probably want to know more! Remember, in most cases a person does not have to tell you about their status but if they choose to do so it means you are a person they trust and value the support (and opinions) of–don’t behave in a way that makes them second-guess whether it was wise to share about their status with you. Then, once someone has shared their status the easiest part of all occurs–you just continue to be their friend and support them as you always have!

Sources:

Information about disclosure and the health benefits of having a disclosed-to base of support found at https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/just-diagnosed-with-hiv-aids/talking-about-your-status/do-you-have-to-tell/

Disclosure-Chart  found at https://pozitivehope.com/2014/05/24/to-disclose-or-not-to-disclose-that-is-the-question/

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