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.
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.