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Personal Story

'I Learned the Hard Way About HIV Disclosure'

Debbie Shares the First Things She Thought and Did After Her HIV Diagnosis

October 15, 2013

I am at work in my government job. I took my test two weeks ago. My doctor calls to tell me that I have tested positive. Then he says come into my office now so we can talk. I am crying; it is April of 1990. I have no idea what this means for me.

I went to my boss and told him exactly what I had just been told. This was the first time he would be so very supportive of me. I left work still crying and ran into my then 17-year-old son. He was doing some community service hours at the same facility I worked at. He asked what was wrong so I told him. I explained that I was going to the doctor to learn more and we would talk when we got home. I then called my mom and my good friend at the time and broke the news to them.

I went to the doctor's office, got as much information as I could handle at that moment. This virus was still fairly new for women. My doctor gave me the name of a social worker to contact in my county. When I got home, I spoke with both my mom and my friend. They both had gotten on their phones, started getting information for me also. The info was all the same. There was one lady I could call.

I then got a call from my boss. He was very concerned about me, told me to take as much time as I needed, and oh there was one more thing. Remember, he was so very supportive before? Well, he would be there for me again now. He was letting me know that once I left work, my son came to my co-workers and announced that I had AIDS and he did not know how to deal with it. By the end of Day One, I had learned the hard way about "disclosure."

From Debbie: I am a 59-year-old, single mom raising my almost-13-year-old daughter. I am also legal guardian for a little boy that is now 3 years old. He has been with us since he was 7 weeks old. I live in California, work on call for a nonprofit organization, and volunteer one day a week delivering groceries to people with HIV/AIDS and no transportation.

Want to share your own "Day One With HIV" story of finding out your diagnosis? Write out your story (1,000 words or fewer, please!), or film a YouTube video, and email it to In the coming months, we'll be posting readers' "Day One" stories here in our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed. Read other stories in this series.

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Disclosure Etiquette, Part 3: The Highs and Lows of Telling Your Business's Just Diagnosed Resource Center
Telling Others You're HIV Positive
More Personal Accounts of HIV Disclosure

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