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AIDS: Who Should Know
Mar 31, 1997

I need your advice. If perhaps, someone would have gotten the HIV/AIDS virus. Who should they tell. Should they tell their parents, lover, or friends first if at all tell anyone. What would that person do in that situation? If at all possible, anyone who reads this can ad to it and give me your advice as well. It would be most appreciated.

Response from Rev. Pieters

To whom you disclose your antibody status is a very personal decision, and there are many factors that enter into making this decision. How much do such people know about your life to begin with? What is their attitude about HIV/AIDS and the people who live with it? Why do they need to know? Is there a compelling reason to tell them? For instance, one could say that it is important to tell a lover or spouse, because they may be at risk for HIV themselves. Your significant other may also be the primary person you will want to support you through this.

But you may not want your parents to know, if you feel they may not be able to handle the news, if it would cause more problems than support. Nowadays, if you are able to access, afford and tolerate the new treatments, you may very well not get sick. Many people living with HIV now are finding that it is quite easy to stay in a closet about their antibody status, since so many on the protease inhibitors look and are healthy. If you are doing well, and it looks like you're going to stay that way, why worry people who love you who may not understand that you can live well with HIV?

On the other hand, even when one is well with HIV, there are still a number of challenges to life with HIV. Coming out to friends and family is really the only way to solicit their support and caring. Coming out also prevents the stress of trying to remember what story you told whom. And you won't have to worry about someone else blowing your cover.

There have been studies that show that persons living with HIV who were out about being gay or a hemophiliac prior to their diagnosis did better in the long run, because they did not have to live with the stress of keeping a big secret. Perhaps the stress of living secretly with HIV may contribute to your health status.

I have been very open about my HIV status, ever since I got sick in the early 1980's. I have found many more benefits than problems in disclosing. But many people do not live with the freedom to live openly with HIV at work, in their community, or even among their family. Unfortunately, discrimination still happens.

There is no pat answer to your question. There are so many variables to consider. Weigh your circumstances very carefully. Consider the probable reactions to the news. Consider the consequences of not disclosing. Make lists of the reasons to come out and the reasons to stay quiet about your HIV status, and compare the two. Then close your eyes, pray, and listen to your heart. Only you can really provide the answer to this issue.

Children with AIDS
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