Partner/s, family, friends, and colleagues - people with HIV are constantly faced with the question of whether they should tell others about their HIV status or whether they would prefer to keep it private.
There are always two sides to consider. It can be a relief to confide in other people. It's good to have people on your side rather than having to keep a secret. Concealing your infection can be stressful.
On the other hand, it is sometimes the case that people become hostile, break off contact or try to lay blame. Relatives and friends are sometimes overwhelmed because they are afraid for you.
Speak first to the people who are closest to you and who you know best. It helps if you have already come to terms with your infection and informed yourself a little. Then you can reassure your friends and relatives about their fears.
Talking to your parents about HIV is not easy; they often react very emotionally because they fear for their child. If you already have a tense relationship with your parents - because you are gay or a drug user, for example - it is even more difficult.
Only you can judge when it is the right time. You may have a good friend whom you wish to confide in first, so that you don't feel so alone when talking to your parents. Your partner may also be able to support you.
Your parents may also need support from people who are or have been in a situation similar to the one they are in now. The network of relatives and associates of people with HIV/AIDS is a good place to make contact with others.
Your partner is likely to be the first person to find out about your infection. Such a serious development cannot be concealed for long, and to do so would have a grave impact on the relationship.
You should expect that your partner will be afraid that they may also be infected. At the same time, they are the person who can best stand by you.
Before you talk to your partner, it can help to first consider what questions are likely to be raised. That way, you can seek out relevant information in advance.
You can then consider whether there has been a risk of infection for your partner and how you can deal with your infection within the relationship; for example, how it will affect your sex life.
Friends and acquaintances
Good friends can be a vital source of support for you. There are many reasons to take your friends into your confidence. You should make sure that anyone you tell will treat this personal information responsibly. Don’t tell someone if you are worried they might pass the information further than you would like.
You may also feel the need to tell your work colleagues about your infection. The same applies here: it can be easier not to have to keep it secret.
You should think through your decision to tell colleagues very carefully, because it's not possible to take back the news that you are HIV-positive.
It's not easy, however, to know how your colleagues will react. Some HIV-positive people report that their colleagues were very open-minded. Others, however, report receiving stupid comments and hostile remarks. People are sometimes also dismissed from their job. Dismissal due to HIV-status is illegal, but it may not be possible to repair the relationship between you and your employer.
One thing you should certainly consider is that information is often shared with other colleagues. You should be prepared that the news of your HIV infection may spread if you take colleagues into your confidence.
This may seem inevitable - but it is illegal. According to law, telling others about a person's HIV-status is not permitted if the HIV-positive person has not given permission. However, it is not punishable by law if someone does gossip about your HIV status. All you can do is file for an injunction; in other words, legally ensure that your HIV status does not continue to be spoken about.
If it can be proved that financial loss has resulted from the gossip, it is also possible to sue for damages. This might be the case, for example, if a person loses their job because their HIV status becomes known.
You can find more information about HIV at work, as well as personal reports from others about how they have dealt with it, here.
The age of the children is a decisive factor in when to tell them about your HIV status. Are they able to understand what HIV infection means? Will they find it very frightening? Do you feel that you can cope with this situation? Only you can decide when the right time has come.
Of course, there may be situations in which the child notices something or asks questions. Your child might have heard a conversation between you and your partner, or noticed you taking tablets. You shouldn't try to downplay it or deny anything. Children sense when something is not right, and they become even more unsettled. It's better to try to explain the situation in a way that suits the age of the child.