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Moral/ethical dilemma
Nov 14, 1997

This question may be beyond your scope, but I wanted to give

it a try. I am struggling with the question of whether I

have a moral/ethical obligation to inform people I come in

contact with on a regular basis, family and co-workers, of

being HIV positve. I haven't been diagnosed yet, but I

believe it's just a matter of time and it seems to me that

it will necessary to advise people to give them the option

of further association or at least the degree of association

they choose to have with someone who is positive. Have you

any insight on the subject? Thanks.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. I have a significant concern here, but it's not related with you telling others about "your HIV infection". I am actually concerned about your fatalistic attitude about you ultimately getting HIV, even though you currently do not even know whether you have it or not. You cannot assume you have HIV unless you get tested. Before you start worrying about telling other people about "your HIV infection", first find out if you even have it. If you think of yourself as ultimately going to get it, and it being "just a matter of time", then I suggest you seek counseling, including safer sex counseling. The sooner you seek counseling, and the sooner you take steps to protect your health, the less the chance that you will get HIV, and the less the chance you will have to think about living with HIV infection (and telling others about it).

To those persons reading this post who do have HIV, regarding who you should tell about your positive status, depends on the specific situation. If you are HIV positive, it is very important that you notify your sexual/needle-sharing partners, so that they too, can be tested. This is especially important, since most persons who have become exposed to HIV, do not even realize that they were exposed, or were even at risk. The local health department can work with you to notify your partners. If you wish, the health department can even notify your partners for you on an anonymous basis, so that nobody else will know about your positive status, not even your partners. In addition, it is also important that you tell your potential sex/needle-sharing partners about your HIV status, ahead of time. This is because no sex/needle-sharing is 100% safe, and there will always be some element of risk, although that risk can be substantially reduced (condom use etc.), but not eliminated. In fact in some places, there is even a legal obligation to notify your partners ahead of time of your positive status. In regards to telling casual acquaintances, family members, friends, co-workers, etc., the decision on whether to tell them or not is a personal choice, since you are not putting casual contacts at risk of infection. Ask yourself, "what are the benefits of telling them?....what harm can come in telling them?" The choice to tell acquaintances, friends, family, etc., is a deeply personal one, and should be taken on a person-by-person basis.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at "nvhotline@aol.com" or call me at (Nationwide). I'm glad to help!



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