Telling people you have HIV
Telling other people that you have HIV (disclosure) can be difficult, but partners, family and friends who know your status can be an important source of support.
It's ok to take some time to think through who to tell, and how you will talk to them about it.
Things to consider
- There are some situations where you may be legally required to disclose. Find out more...
- When you tell someone close to you that you have HIV, you should carefully consider what the person knows about HIV and how your disclosure might affect your relationship with them.
- You can never take back disclosure, or control how people will react. If you think the person will have a bad reaction, leave it until you feel more confident that you can handle it, or don’t tell them.
- Be careful about disclosing to people who might gossip.
- It might be helpful to rehearse what you want to tell people beforehand.
- Remind the person to keep it confidential, but accept that they will need to talk to others about it.
- Ask them to be careful who they tell or suggest other people who they could talk to for support.
- You may find yourself having play the role of an educator and answer the person's questions not only about your individual circumstances, but also about HIV itself. Although this can be challenging, it can also be a useful conversation which may alleviate their concerns.
- It can be hard to tell the children in our lives that we have HIV. Explain things in simple ways so that it’s easy for them to understand.
- Next Steps (PDF)
- Gay men and HIV disclosure
- Women living well with HIV (website)
- The Disclosure Project - a web-based resource designed to help people develop and share strategies and skills around disclosure
Your legal rights and obligations
There are laws in most states in Australia which protect your confidentiality after you have disclosed, but these only apply to people such as health professionals, not to sexual partners, friends or the general community.
In most social and work situations, you are not obliged to tell anyone your status.
You may be legally required to disclose when applying for superannuation or life insurance, for some jobs, and for some visas (to enter Australia).
In some states, you are legally required to tell any sexual partner, even if you intend to have safe sex or have an undetectable viral load.
People living with HIV cannot donate blood, ova, semen or other body tissues.
Some cases of non-disclosure have ended up in court so it is important to know how the laws in your particular state might impact on your decisions about telling people you have HIV.
- HIV and the law
- Legal issues for people with HIV: confidentiality, HIV disclosure and discrimination
- Unravelling the law: A guide for women living with HIV/AIDS (HIV/AIDS Legal Centre publication)
This page was published on 12 January, 2011
This page was reviewed on 10 December 2015
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