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Should I tell people?
Jul 22, 1998

Hi. I am HIV positive and i am 16. no one knows that I have it except a few people. (mainly my family) I am afraid that if I tell people they will be afraid of me. But on the other hand, if i don't tell them, they will not be careful, and may pick up the virus. I live in a small town, and they don't understand things like this. I don't know if i should tell or not.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

You are in a very difficult predicament. All of the research shows that people living with HIV need a lot of social support in order to do well, this means a peer group of other people with whom he or she can talk and share experiences with. You need to go online and find a chat room in one of the HIV/AIDS web sites where you can talk with other adolescents in privacy and confidentially. If you live any where near a big city with a pediatric AIDS program they are certain to run groups for teenagers living with HIV.

I am very concerned about one of the things you said regarding other people needing to know in order to not catch it from you. If you are sexually active it is YOUR responsibility to NEVER do anything that could EVER put anyone else at risk for contracting this. This means always insisting upon using condoms. You can do this by saying you are concerned about not catching or spreading any sexually transmitted diseases which are rampant in the teen aged population, and that you want to make sure that there is no risk of pregnancy if you are heterosexual.

Also, look up Ryan White and the work he did as an AIDS educator. This brave young man became a national hero by being public about having HIV and AIDS. Yes he was also victimized for it and that was his catalyst for going public, so I am not suggesting that you follow his example. Yet by researching his life and work you may find resources and inspiration that can be of help to you. Best of luck.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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