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So confused about disclosure
Aug 5, 2014

I'm 40 years old and I haven't had a serious boyfriend in 20 years. So, I guess I'm sort of a novice at relationships. About a month ago, my friend saw my Androderm patch and he asked me if I was HIV positive. I had never disclosed to anyone before, the question totally caught me off guard and I never thought it would get more serious with him - so I told him it was a nicotine patch. Unfortunately - it has gotten more serious now. I feel terrible that I lied to him, how can I tell him the truth now? I live in a pretty small city and finding him hasn't been easy. He is my only friend and now possibly a boyfriend. I know our relationship is not a "forever" one - but we make each other happy just being together for now. He is only 27 and sex is more important to him than me. I'm feeling suicide is the easiest answer now because I don't know what to do.

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thank you so much for writing. Let me say right at the beginning that if you are having suicidal thoughts or feelings you should call 911 right away. Such an extreme and self-destructive step is unnecessary as there are solutions for your situation.

I have had many clients who find themselves in the same circumstances, that is, they haven't disclosed their HIV status earlier and now it seems more and more difficult. I feel anyone at risk should be informed of any exposure, although the use of condoms and an undetectable viral load considerably reduce that risk. You don't mention either so I can't comment on that.

I will say that it is important that you disclose your status to him as soon as possible, both because of his right to know and the health of your relationship. You may also be putting yourself in some legal jeopardy by not revealing your status. Your relationship cannot be built on a falsehood, even if that relationship not a "forever" one (and who knows, by the way?). I would recommend getting the assistance of a counselor to help you with this discussion. He/she can help you frame what you need to say and give you some communication tools. They can also assist you to prepare for his reaction, no matter what that might be.

You also state that he is your only friend and I strongly encourage you to establish a support network. Such individuals can be found even in small towns and they are vital to our health and emotional well-being. Speak with your doctor about finding others to talk to. You might also be able to find online support.

You clearly are an articulate and caring man. I believe you have many more internal resources than you may be aware of. Get support and prepare yourself to inform him as soon as possible. The outcome cannot be predicted but, with such support, you will be okay no matter what and the issue will be corrected.

You have many tools but once again, if self-destructive thoughts arise, call 911 immediately.

Best wishes for you,

David



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