Brett Grodeck (Author, The First Year - HIV) gives expert video advice on: Should I confront the person who infected me with HIV?; Should I tell friends I am HIV positive?; Should I tell my parents I am HIV positive? and more...
Why should I disclose my HIV status?
It depends on the context of the situation. Sometimes it's best not to disclose your HIV status. For example, in a work situation there's no good or rational reason why you should have to disclose that information. Among friends, and perhaps in a dating or social situation, again, there's very little good reason to disclose that information unless you want to, unless you want people to get to really know you and know what's going on with you. Early in the epidemic there was a lot of fear and misinformation. People weren't really clear how HIV was transmitted. Now they know. It's basically blood and semen. That's it. So unless you're sharing blood or unless you're sharing semen, there's not a lot of rational reason to disclose that information unless you want to, unless you're compelled to.
When should I begin disclosing my HIV status?
The time to disclose your HIV status is only when you're ready. The person that you need to take care of is yourself. You need to adjust to the news of your HIV status first. For some people that may be a week, for other people it may be a year. But only disclose your HIV status when it's appropriate, and only when you're ready. There are very few reasons to disclose your HIV status to other people, unless it's something where you want to use to interact and connect with people. Or, if they can provide services to you once they know your HIV status. For example, going to an HIV support group is a place where you'd need to disclose your HIV status. On the other hand, you get the benefit of all these other people who have knowledge and experience that can help you live with HIV. But if you're visiting your family in the Mid-West, and they don't know that you're HIV positive, and you're healthy, there's no good reason to disclose your HIV status.
What if I'm ashamed to talk about my HIV status?
There is something about shame that builds on itself and makes a person feels worst. There are a lot of issues and a lot fear that was originally associated with HIV and AIDS. It's funny, if we just change the name of HIV to something completely different you might not feel the same kind of shame or guilt or uncomfortable feeling that you would simply because it's name HIV or AIDS. These are very scary words. I think it's important to interact with other people who have been through that and felt those feelings of shame. And when you're comfortable with who you're and what you're doing in your life I think that change will begins to dissipate, and you begin to feel more confident and better about who you are because that is who you are.
Should I confront the person who infected me with HIV?
Initially, when people find out they're HIV positive, I think it's most important for them to deal with their own feelings initially. Confronting other people with that kind of potentially hot button issue, I would give that some thought to. Take your time. Don't jump into anything because it can be everything from an awkward situation to a dangerous situation, and because you're testing HIV positive you don't know who gave who the virus. I think it's important for people to know that they're not the monsters. They're not the villain, that we've all participated in some behavior that led to HIV exposure. I think with time, and after you adjust to your own situation, and if you feel it's right, then you can reveal that information if you think it's appropriate.
Should I tell past partners I am HIV positive?
Telling past partners can be very difficult and not everybody knows who gave who the virus. In the same sentence I would also say that if you're convinced that you've exchanged other blood or semen with someone, there's some good reason to tell the other person, but those are the only circumstances that people should. There's a feeling that because you're HIV positive you have to tell everyone else, because they need to know. That's not how the virus is transmitted, it's blood and it's semen. If you've exchanged blood or semen with someone, then think about telling them when you're ready.
Should I tell friends I am HIV positive?
You can tell your friends that you are HIV positive if you want to, because there's no good and rational reason why they need to know that you are HIV positive, unless of course you want to connect with somebody, you want them to really know who you are. Sometimes friends can get scared, they can freak out, they might not be able to deal with the information themselves, and they may avoid you when you tell them that you are HIV positive. That certainly happened to me. But I think times are changing, and I think people are more adjusted to it. But I don't think you need to tell your friends that you are HIV positive unless you are comfortable in doing so.
Should I tell my parents I am HIV positive?
A long time ago when HIV and AIDS were far less treatable, it was probably some rationale for telling your friends and family. Today in 2007, the medicine for HIV is so good that the decision to tell your family or your parents is ultimately your own decision. I know that I told my parents and it was very difficult for them, at first. However, they adjusted to the situation with tim. Now I have a really close and understanding relationship with my parents that I look to for suport. I don't think there is always a reason to tell your family unless you need support from them and I found tremendous support from my own family.
Should I tell close family members I am HIV positive?
People who love you and care about you may find hearing that kind of news, the news that you are HIV positive, shocking. You may find yourself in a situation where you're supporting them. Unless you are prepared for that, it may not be a great idea. People tend to feel comfortable when other people are comfortable. So if you are OK with being HIV positive and you are demonstrating it by your life and behavior, that may be a good point to tell people who love you because they can see that you are fine. If you looked at it from the opposite perspective, would you want your son or daughter or brother or mother to tell you if they had a serious chronic condition? Would you be supportive to them or would you worry? So I think the decision to tell a very close family member or a close friend or even a partner should be taken very seriously because people may be shocked over the news of you being HIV positive or have their own issues to deal with.
Should I tell my children I am HIV positive?
I think telling your children any adult circumstance is a decision that needs to made against the whole context of your life. Are they old enough to understand what "HIV positive" means? Are you comfortable telling them you are HIV positive? Are they younger and you need to be the parent or are they older and on their own and understand more about what a chronic condition such as HIV means? So, a decision to tell your children that you are HIV positive really depends on the circumstances that you're in at the moment. I think the first criteria for telling someone like your kids that you are HIV positive would be how you feel and how comfortable you are and how they are in their development. Are they old enough to understand what it means to be HIV positive?
Should I tell my co-workers I am HIV positive?
There are very few circumstances where telling your co-workers that you are HIV positive is rational or appropriate, unless of course you are a surgeon or a prize-fighter, where there is blood or semen being exposed. In most circumstances, there is no reason to tell other people, in a professional setting, that you have HIV.
Should I tell my doctor and dentist I am HIV positive?
The benefit of telling your doctor that you are HIV positive is the information on HIV that they can provide you, the HIV services that they can provide you with. You can, for example, be tested at an STD clinic, and then go to see your primary physician. And you can tell them you are HIV positive or not. But in exchange for not telling them you are HIV positive, you may not have access to medicine or information that could help your life. Telling your dentist that you are HIV positive may or may not be appropriate. All dentists, for example, should be taking universal precautions against HIV. They're protecting themselves against HIV no matter what, no matter who's sitting in the chair. You may not feel comfortable, for a variety of reasons, in telling a dentist that you are HIV positive, but they should be protecting themselves against HIV if they're a professional dentist who's using universal precautions.