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Disclosure: An Intensely Personal Decision

By Frankie Ninja

October 27, 2011

Disclosure ... It is the question that haunts all people battling HIV. Who to disclose to. What to disclose. When to disclose and so on. There is no right or wrong answer as to whether or not a person discloses their HIV status to other people (EXCEPT a sexual partner where disclosure, in my opinion, is not only morally right but legally required). The best answer, in my opinion then is, disclosure comes when and if the individual is comfortable sharing this information.

My experience has been an overall positive one; so far. However, I live in San Francisco where attitudes tend to be more tolerant. Outside of San Francisco, in the "real world," if you will, people are not as informed about HIV and there are real prejudices and discrimination that people STILL practice. My experience has been mostly positive; but there are always those that will look at us (HIVers) with disdain.

When I disclose my status to them, they either accept me in totality, or shun me in ignorance. As painful as that may sound, I would prefer to be rejected up front without any emotional attachment to that person, than to have my heart broken and time wasted by someone that can't see beyond his own ignorance.

Overall, disclosing to others has been a positive experience for me. When people look at me, they assume one thing but once we get to talking, they realize they've judged a book by its cover.

Disclosing allows me to educate others about HIV. So many people believe that it is just a GAY DISEASE. In the '80s it was known as "GRID" or "the GAY CANCER." Sadly, there are still many people who feel that way.

I don't really fit into any stereotype. I am a father, an aircraft mechanic, conservative and Christian. Yet, I am bi and live in San Francisco. When I share my story, people are dumbfounded. It's a great way to show people just how ignorant they can be. So many think that because they are not gay or bi, they are immune to the disease. They are not. People forget that HIV affects EVERYONE. It's NOT just a sexually transmitted disease, nor is it just a GAY disease. It has infected the heterosexual world, drug users and hemophiliacs. It has AFFECTED countless families.

You Don't Have to Be INFECTED to Be AFFECTED

By telling others MY STORY, I have shown them that not all is as it may appear. It has allowed me to educate them. To make them think twice about risky behavior and not to fear or hate those that are fighting for their futures every day.

But "disclosure" can also bring with it unintended consequences. Namely, depression. Depression caused by rejection or ignorance by those receiving the news. But that's another story for another day.

Remember, disclosure is an intensely personal decision. Let your heart and mind guide you in this most personal of admissions.

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See Also's Just Diagnosed Resource Center
Telling Others You're HIV Positive
More Personal Accounts of HIV Disclosure

Reader Comments:

Comment by: carol montalto (westbrook ct) Fri., Nov. 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm UTC
Sharing your experience disclosure is brave and may help many. You are right about acceptance in san francisco versus other communities. Unfortunately there are ignorant and bigoted people within families that are not capable of being educated. Those individuals should be the ones to be shunned.

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Comment by: Frankie Ninja (San Francisco, CA) Mon., Nov. 28, 2011 at 3:38 am UTC
Ms. Montalto,

Having experienced some of that "ignorance and bigotry" myself, I know the pain of having loved ones like parents, turn their backs on their sons or daughters in judgement. It's one of the most horrible things one can experience. Born from ignorance and misunderstanding. But it can also be an opportunity. If not to help them understand, then to help the infected rise above it and become stronger and more sympathetic to those that do not understand.

I told my parents the day I was diagnosed. (Of course I had a whole country between us but... 'smile') I felt it was either now or never. I considered their health and age and new that waiting until they were older would not end very well for them so, I channeled my fear and anguish into opening a line of communication with them that I never had before. Figuring that their hearts were still strong enough to take the shock that their beloved son had become infected, I told them. Much to my surprise (and blessing) it all turned out well!

There are other relatives that have not yet come to terms with my status. I feel bad FOR them. However, I have to understand that perhaps in time, they will learn enough about HIV to one day say, "Please forgive my ignorance" and because I have experienced that pain, I will extend my hand in love and say like my parents did to me on May 16th, 2007, "We are your family and we love you no matter what"

Comment by: HIVOhio (Lakewood, OH) Fri., Nov. 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm UTC
Thanks for sharing your story & I agree, it's up to the person affected to disclose their status when they are ready.
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The Ninja Report

Frankie Ninja

Frankie Ninja

Frankie Ninja is a paradox defying description. Proving that you should never judge a book by its cover.

Born in Miami, Florida, living in San Francisco since 1996, he's a divorced father and a college graduate; a Pilot/Flight Engineer, Aircraft Technician, Health Educator and Public Speaker.

Fighting for human rights, particularly those of people with HIV/AIDS and minorities, he arrived to "the scene" in 1997 after meeting Legendary Icon "Mother" Willi Ninja of The Legendary House of Ninja (April 12, 1961 - September 2, 2006 -- Who sadly passed due to AIDS). Fast friends, Willi quickly became Frankie's mentor and big brother.

At 44, Frankie has been HIV+ since May, 2007. As a survivor, his calling is to ensure that Willi's legacy continues; and to reduce or end this scourge on society known as HIV/AIDS through education and participation.

In Willi's honor, this blog, for you, will be known as "The Ninja Report."

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