How should I choose a family member to tell about my HIV status?

If you have been diagnosed with HIV you may be thinking about telling family members – but your decision will depend on the relationship you already have with them.

It may be helpful to ask yourself if the person you want to tell:

  • has been helpful when you talked about problems in the past.
  • accepts and loves you.
  • respects your privacy.
  • is a good listener.
  • is practical, sensible and reliable.

Family members may have incorrect information about HIV and treat you differently or unkindly. If you think your family might react like this it may be easier to get some support from an HIV organisation or a support group for people living with HIV.

If you do decide to tell someone in your family, it might be useful to have some leaflets you can show them – people may have exaggerated worries about HIV and having something to read may be reassuring.

Some people worry that if they become unwell and have to be admitted to hospital, the medical staff might disclose their HIV status to their relatives against their will.

Generally doctors wouldn’t disclose someone’s HIV status. They might explain that the person has a condition like pneumonia, for example, without mentioning their HIV infection.

In some situations medical staff might encourage people to disclose their HIV status so they can get support from their family, but they will not force them to do so.

Often people don’t understand the ways HIV can be passed on, or they may feel worried and upset about your health.

They will be reassured to know that you’re getting good care from your HIV clinic and that you know where to get support and how to take care of yourself.

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