“Disclosing is an art form that you develop over time.”
Getting a diagnosis of any chronic illness can be emotionally challenging. After hearing the news yourself, the next step is often to tell your loved ones. This is helpful so you don’t have to go through the journey alone, and so that your loved ones can understand what you’re dealing with. This is especially true after an HIV diagnosis.
Thankfully, people with HIV today may face less stigma than they did a couple decades ago. This can make it easier to disclose your HIV status with your partners, family members, and friends. Today, many people are surprised when their loved ones react with support, compassion, and acceptance.
So what was the experience like for others? Find out how the following individuals decided to tell their loved ones about their HIV diagnosis and what the experience was like.
Disclosing an HIV Diagnosis, According to People Who’ve Done It
Starting with a Stranger
“The first person I told was the person on the telephone that I called from an 800 number. I was afraid to tell anybody. I did not tell my mother for quite some time after that because I had internalized stigma. Then when I finally told her, all she said was, ‘Okay, are you taking care of yourself?’”
—Reginald Brown, diagnosed with HIV in 1986
Letting Others Disclose for You
“When I first got diagnosed, the first people I told [were] my aunts. There was no plan… I just wanted to tell them. I did not want to be living in their house and them not knowing what was really going on with me.
“When it came to disclosing to my mom, given the nature of our relationship at that time, I pretty much gave my aunt the green light to disclose on my behalf.”
—Thamicha Isaac, diagnosed with HIV in 2003
Disclosing Over the Phone
“I did eventually get around to telling my mom and telling my sisters. [It wasn't] easy, but it was necessary for me to let them know. I did it over the phone. It was very quick. There [weren’t] a lot of emotions attached to it. If anything, it just happened.”
—David LaMarr, diagnosed with HIV in 2019
Seeing People’s True Character
“Disclosing is an art form that you develop over time. You get some people who’ll turn you down. You get people who’ll reject you. I think you just have to hold on for the good people. I’ve learned to look at it as a shield meant to protect me from people who are not invested in really seeing me.”
—Kineen Mafa, diagnosed with HIV in 2003
Still nervous about how to start the conversation with a loved one? Check out this doctor’s tips for how to tell loved ones about an HIV diagnosis.