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Living With HIV

Decide who to tell about your HIV status, and when.

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Whether to tell people about your HIV status, when to tell them, and what to tell, depends on the situation and why you are thinking of disclosing the information. The decision is a purely personal one. There is no right and wrong unless you could infect another person.

In general, there are four situations which give rise to this question. What you decide to do may vary in each situation.  The three situations are:

  • Family, Friends and Acquaintances
  • Children
  • The non-medical professionals in your life such as your lawyer
  • Work

In each situation, consider:

  • The pros and cons of telling.
  • Preparing before you tell.

There are three givens:

  • Keeping a secret is stressful. The greater the secret, the greater the stress.
  • There is no going back once you tell. As they say: "The cat's out of the bag."
  • Tell your sex partners and other people when there is a risk of transmitting HIV.

If you have children

  • Consider telling them about your diagnosis. If you have symptoms they are likely to notice, they will know something is wrong. If you don’t tell them what is happening, children frequently assume it is something they did wrong.
  • Tell each child in a manner that is appropriate for his or her age. Children will know something is happening and will likely assume it is their fault if they are not told.
  • Once you tell a child, watch for aftereffects. They may not show up for awhile.
  • If you need help either telling your children or dealing with their reactions, seek professional help. Also speak with your local disease specific nonprofit organization. They may have tips for you, or can point you to support groups where you may gain necessary information.

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