Telling others about living with HIV: Angelina’s Story
Telling someone that you live with HIV, especially someone close to you, can be challenging. There is no right or wrong way to do it as each person you tell is likely to have a different reaction. Some will react well, which is what we all hope for. However, others may not react so well. The most important thing is for you to be as well prepared as you can be for whatever reaction you may get.
Below are some tips that you can use when you are preparing to share your HIV status.
- Decide who you want to tell and why. Telling others about your HIV status should first and foremost be of benefit to you. You should be the one to make the decision to tell others. You should not tell others because someone else is forcing you to do it.
- Be prepared with basic information about HIV. Get the facts on how HIV is passed on and how to prevent this. Find out how treatment works to keep you well and how once you take treatment it’s possible to reach an undetectable viral load, meaning that you cannot pass HIV on to others. With treatment, care and support, you can live well for many years, have children (if that is what you want), have a relationship, work and do everyday activities.
- Try not to make telling someone about HIV a big deal. You can say something like “I live with HIV. It is a virus that makes my immune system weak so I cannot fight off infections easily like other people without HIV. I take medication which makes my immune system stronger. HIV doesn’t stop me from doing everyday activities, like sports for example”.
- Explain to them that you would appreciate if they did not share your HIV status with others. Explain that this is because not everybody is understanding or has the right information about HIV. Say that you have chosen to tell them because you trust them and value your friendship or relationship with them.
- Tell them to ask you if they have any questions or concerns about what you have shared with them. This is important. If they ask you a question you cannot answer just say “I am not sure about that, but I will get back to you with the correct information”. Don’t try and answer or explain anything you are not sure about.
- Peer support can be very helpful. If you are not sure whether you are ready to tell others, speak to people you know who have told others about their HIV. Listen to their experiences and find out what worked for them.
- You don’t need to do this on your own. There are many people and organisations who can help you. These include HIV support organisations and your clinic doctor or nurse. They can help you directly or refer you to someone at the hospital who can provide support around sharing your HIV status with others.
Always remember that it’s your HIV status and the decisions about how and when to tell others are yours. Getting support from people you trust can make the process easier, so reach out if you feel ready. You can also read through more top tips, covering topics such as being newly diagnosed and starting treatment for more information on these topics.