There’s no rush. Learning when and how to disclose your status can take time. Sometimes people come home from their diagnosis and tell the first person they see. However, you may find yourself having to comfort the people you tell, at a time when you need comforting yourself. It is okay to wait until you feel safe, informed, and confident, before disclosing your status to others.
Resisting stigma. Sometimes people use the fear of HIV to justify treating people with HIV in judgemental and discriminatory ways. HIV is not passed on via casual contact, such as hugging, kissing, shaking hands, or sharing a meal together. It is passed on via sex, sharing equipment for injecting drugs, childbirth, and breastfeeding. When you know the facts, you are in a better position to push back against stigma when you encounter it.
When disclosure is required. There are two scenarios where disclosure is unavoidable following your diagnosis.
In both scenarios, the doctor should explain why these questions are being asked. They should be asked without judgment, and your answers should be kept confidential. If you have a different experience, you may want to see a different doctor, and you could talk to an HIV organisation about raising concerns or making a complaint.
Telling potential partners. People with HIV have to make decisions about when or whether to tell potential sexual and relationship partners. Some prefer to ‘get it out of the way’ early, so there are less hurt feelings if they are rejected. Others wait until they feel like they can trust the person they are telling. Some do it in person and some people do it online. There’s no right answer and no one strategy that can avoid heartbreak altogether. But it definitely helps to talk with other people with HIV about how they approach disclosure.
Telling people before sex. If you are using effective protection, it is your choice whether to tell a potential sexual partner before getting it on. There is no legal obligation in Australia to tell anyone your status as long as you are using effective protection. Protection means using condoms — or your partner using PrEP — until your viral load is under 200. When your viral load is under 200, you can have sex without any fear of transmission, even when condoms or PrEP are not used.