Sharing Your Status
Telling others that you have HIV can be difficult, but it is an important part of managing your infection.
Am I Legally Required To Share My HIV Status With Others?
Even though disclosing your HIV status may be uncomfortable, doing so allows others to protect themselves and gives you protection under the law.
Health care providers and other HIV-related service providers need to know so that they can support you and make sure you have access to the health care services that you need. Disclosing your HIV status also protects your health care provider. Even though health care providers take precautions, such as wearing gloves to avoid coming into direct contact with a patient’s blood, letting them know you have HIV will remind them to be very careful about those precautions.
Sex or injection drug-use partners need to know to protect their health. Telling new partners that you have HIV before you have sex or inject drugs together allows them to make decisions that can protect their health, like going on PrEP or using PEP and using condoms consistently and correctly. In some states, there are laws that require you to share your HIV status with your sex and injection drug-use partners.
You do not have to tell your employer. But, if you have to take extended leave or alter your schedule, you may want to. By law, your disclosure is confidential.
The following resources can provide more information on sharing your HIV status with others:
How Can I Get Help Telling My Partners That They May Have Been Exposed To HIV?
If you have HIV or another sexually transmitted disease (STD) (like syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia), it is very important to let your current and former sex or injection drug-use partners know that they may have been exposed. Informing partners that you have HIV lets them know that they should be tested for HIV. These conversations can be challenging because you may have become infected by one of these individuals or you may have infected one or more of them without knowing.
There are a few ways to let your partners know:
What Is Partner Services?
Partner Services provides many free services to people living with HIV or other STDs and their partners. Through Partner Services, health department staff notify your current and former sex and/or injection drug-use partners that they may have been exposed to HIV or another STD and provide them with testing, counseling, and referrals for other services.
Partner Services programs are available through health departments and some medical offices or clinics. Your health care provider, social worker, case manager, patient navigator, or HIV testing center can help put you in touch with a Partner Services program.
Should I Share My HIV Status With My Friends And Family?
Sharing your HIV status with certain family members and friends has both emotional and practical benefits. Emotionally, having trusted people to talk to can help you deal with the early stages of dealing with an HIV diagnosis. They can also support you with the longer-term issues of treatment adherence and disclosing to others. Practically, trusting people with this knowledge will allow them to speak for you in case of an emergency and to help you navigate the medical system. Don’t overlook the expertise of individuals you know. Many people have had these difficult conversations and they can help you work through what you will say. For example:
What Are Some Conversation Starters To Begin Talking About My Status With Others?
Some conversation starters to help you begin talking about your status with others include:
What Are Some Conversation Starters To Begin Talking About Safer Sex Options With My Partners?
Some conversation starters to help you begin talking about safer sex options with your partners include:
Additional conversation starters are available from CDC’s Act Against Aids Campaign Start Talking. Stop HIV.
Stigma can be a complex barrier to health care for people living with HIV/AIDS. Today, with HIV treatment, many people can live a long and healthy life. However, the stigma of the disease can have a negative effect on people living with HIV.
HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination refer to prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV and AIDS. Some examples of stigma and discrimination include being shunned by family, peers, and the wider community; poor treatment in health care and education settings; loss of rights; psychological damage; and a negative effect on the success of HIV testing and treatment.
HIV/AIDS stigma is not only experienced by people who are living with the disease. It also is experienced by family and friends, HIV service providers, and members of groups that have been heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS, such as gay and bisexual men, homeless individuals, street youth, and mentally ill individuals.
This website features people living with HIV and their stories, including some testimonials about dealing with stigma. CDC’s other Act Against AIDS Campaign Let’s Stop HIV Together has additional information on stigma for persons living with HIV. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is another helpful resource on stigma.
What Resources Are Available To Me For Support?
Know your rights. You are entitled to the same rights as any other patient in the medical system. These rights include safety, competent medical care, and confidentiality.
Additional resources are available in the Resources Section of this site.
- Page last reviewed: January 12, 2016
- Page last updated: January 12, 2016
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