Telling people you have HIV

Michael Carter, Greta Hughson

There are lots of reasons why you might want to tell people that you have HIV, not least the valuable support the people closest to you can provide.

Being open about having HIV can mean that you don't have to live with the stress of keeping a secret and, if you feel comfortable being open about your HIV status, it can be a very powerful way of fighting stigma.

Many people prefer only to tell those closest to them and find that their HIV status is simply irrelevant in most situations.

Although you can tell people you have HIV later, you cannot ‘un-tell’, so it makes sense to think carefully about who you tell, particularly when you have only recently found out you have HIV.

We all react in different ways and you may find that your feelings change at time goes on. You might decide to tell more people once you have come to terms with having HIV, or you may find that it doesn’t seem so important anymore to tell people. Think about what’s best for you right now.

Telling people that you have HIV can seem like a daunting or even frightening task and you may be worried about the reaction of the person you want to tell. It can help to be prepared with answers to questions they might have, particularly about your health and how HIV is passed on. Sometimes you might find yourself supporting and reassuring the people who you told about your HIV.

Be clear about who they can and cannot share information about your HIV status with. They may want to talk to someone else, particularly if they are upset, because they care about you.

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this section.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.