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Should I tell someone his/her partner has AIDS? The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions

Jan 7, 1997

What should I do when I know someone is HIV+ and is having a relationship, but does not tell his/her partner he's infected, and I am not sure if they are always having safe sex? Should I keep his right of not telling anyone his infected or should I alert hi's partner that he/she is in a very dangerous relationship? Who has the real right here?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. This is a very difficult question to answer. We're talking about both moralistic and legal issues here. In some places, if a person has HIV, they have a legal responsibility to notify their potential partners ahead of time, that they have HIV. However, this may not be the case in all places.

Most people who have HIV are very responsible about notifying their partners that they have HIV. Most are very careful about taking steps to prevent transmission of the virus, once they know that they're infected. Many either practice safer sex, or abstain from sex, once they find out about their HIV diagnosis. Most of the time, HIV is transmitted from persons unaware of their HIV status. Once they learn their status, people usually take steps to protect others from the virus.

It's really hard to know whether an HIV positive person has told their sexual partners that they have HIV. It's also hard to know if they've been having safer sex or not. You may not be aware of what goes on behind closed doors.

It can be very destructive if you violate the confidentiality of persons you know with HIV, even with the best of intentions. My best advice is to talk over your concerns with the person who has HIV. There may be some things that you're not presently aware of.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual to protect themselves against HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's). We all have a personal responsibility to protect ourselves. We should all protect ourselves when having sex with a person whose HIV/STD status we're not sure of. So ultimately, it's up to everyone to protect themselves.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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