Planning to tell someone
Deciding whether to tell someone you have HIV can be challenging. Remember that you are in control of who you tell and who you don’t. If you do decide to tell, a bit of planning can make it easier.
Telling someone you have HIV is often called ‘disclosure’
Before you disclose to someone:
- Think about why you want to tell them (you don’t have to unless you’re going to have sex with them)
- Be sure that you trust them – after you tell them you can’t control how they react or who they tell
- Have a plan for what you’re going to say, including how to answer awkward questions
- Be prepared for both good and bad reactions
- Choose carefully when and where you tell them. Somewhere private and comfortable is best
- Make sure you have up to date knowledge about HIV, so that you can give them any information they might need. Remember, most people don’t know much about HIV
- Think about getting advice from someone who has experience with telling others. Pozhet can refer you to a counsellor or arrange for you to chat to someone who has been through it themselves.
Dealing with reactions
Some people will be supportive when you tell them you have HIV, but others might be worried or react negatively.
Give them time to adjust – it’s important to remember that people’s first reaction is often not their last reaction. Most people don’t know much about HIV and its treatment. They might need to talk to someone else for support. Talk to them about who they can tell, and who they can’t. Point them to some organisations they can talk to and maybe give them some information to read.
‘Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.’
Telling sexual partners
In NSW the law says you must tell sexual partners that you have HIV (or any other sexually transmitted infection) before you have sex with them. However if you don’t tell and you are charged, it is a defence if the court is satisfied you used reasonable precautions to prevent transmission of HIV, such as a condom. See our page on Legal issues for more information.
It can be hard to know when or how to start a discussion about HIV and sex. A social worker at a specialist HIV clinic can help you find the words you need. Pozhet’s booklet ‘Life, Loving and HIV’ covers some of the issues that HIV-positive people in relationships with HIV-negative people can experience.
‘I met someone I really fancy. I plucked up the courage to tell him that I was HIV positive. He was cool about it and said it didn’t matter.’ Julian
Most parents with HIV choose to tell their children about it at some point. Deciding when and how is a personal decision for you and your family. For some parents it’s great to be open and in control of the information their children get about HIV. Others prefer not to worry their children or run the risk of their children telling other people.
When weighing it up, parents might consider their own health, their children’s age and who else their child can turn to – like close friends or family that already know.
Before you tell anyone, including your children, it’s important to be informed and in control of what and how you tell.
Getting support with children
Many parents find Camp Goodtime an important source of support for their children and themselves. Camp Goodtime is the national camp for children and families living with HIV. Talking to friends at the camp can mean there is less need to disclose to people in their everyday circle of friends. To find out more about Camp Goodtime, contact Sydney Children’s Hospital Paediatric HIV Service.
- Our booklet ‘Life, Loving and HIV’ covers the fulfilling but challenging world of relationships between serodiscordant, pos-neg or magnetic couples
- The fact sheet, Telling others, gives practical advice on when and how to tell others, including some tips on dealing with people’s curiosity about living with HIV
- Positive Life’s fact sheet, Telling children about HIV, shares the experiences of parents with HIV and why or how they told their children about it