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Disclosure Etiquette, Part 3: The Highs and Lows of Telling Your Business

May 17, 2010

After being diagnosed with HIV, I decided not to keep secrets anymore. As a result of this decision, disclosing my HIV diagnosis to my family was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The difficult part was telling them everything else -- such as the 25-year secret I'd kept about what had happened to me as a child: that I'd been sexually molested by a family member from age 13 until age 18.

But even 20 years after disclosing my HIV status, and as a veteran working publicly in the field, I recently experienced a disclosure crisis that stopped me in my tracks. I learned that a family member had repeatedly shared with younger relatives the fact that I had been molested, warning them that the molestation may have transformed me into a sexual predator and that they should be careful around me.

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Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
See Also
Disclosure Etiquette, Part 1: Do I Have to Kiss and Tell?
Disclosure Etiquette, Part 2: Preparing Yourself to Tell Others's Just Diagnosed Resource Center
Telling Others You're HIV Positive
More Advice on Telling Others You Have HIV/AIDS
Find out how a Walgreens specially trained pharmacist can help you

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Duane (Charlotte, NC) Fri., Jul. 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm EDT
I applaude your courage to face this head on, addressing the family member helps them to heal also. I disclosed my status last Dec for the first time to my children, ages 17,13 and 10. It was frightening and yet they way they loved me afterwards was nothing short of a blessing. It was because of that moment I shared my status at my church and encoraged me to become involved more with advocacy. I wouldn't share in the work place because the backlash can be dangerous, yes legally they can't do anything but what does you sharing accomplish there. If I knew someone I worked with was positive then I would try to help in anyway I can but again that's just my view for me. God Bless You, Your courage will set others free.
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Comment by: Rachael (Indianapolis, IN) Wed., Jul. 14, 2010 at 11:19 am EDT
I'm a heterosexual woman who's in a serious, commited relationship with a wonderful man. I've known about my boyfriend's HIV status from the first night we met. When he told me, my reaction was "". It wasn't because I have a "non-chalant attitude" about it. I think it was just him, his personality. It may sound ridiculous to some that I "knew" he was my soulmate that first nite, but I did. Of course I had questions, anyone would. He told me to ask whatever I wanted, that he'd answer me truthfully & as completely as he could~he did exactly that. He's been positive for roughly 20 years & knows how people can react when told. I asked him that nite why he told me~LOL...he said he's learned that if he's even thinking of kissing the woman he's with, he'll tell her, specifically because of how people can react. I remember thinking then how much courage this had to take, and how much I admired him for being so upfront & truthful about things. We're coming up on our 1 yr. anniversary, have rings on lay-away & plan to get married sometime next year. We'e careful & use condoms faithfully, but I still get tested just the same. Thank God, he's healthy, his CD-4 count is always high & tests always come back as undetectable. I'm not naive enough to think it will always be like that, but I love him more than anything in this world~so we're just trying to be happy & enjoy each other for as long as God gives us.
When we realized the relationship was getting serious, he told me he wanted me to talk w/someone I trusted about it. He also warned me to be careful who I talked to, because I might not get the reaction I thought. The person I picked reacted just as I'd thought~a little concerned perhaps, but supportive & happy that I'd found someone who makes me this happy.
I do a lot of research/reading on the subject & we both try to keep ourselves updated/educated on anything new. I ran across your postings & just wanted to share a little. Thank you for your insight.
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Comment by: Mike (Baltimore) Thu., Jul. 8, 2010 at 7:23 pm EDT
It is about telling your 'business' not disclosing at your job. Telling your business and the fallout from it. How to handle it. As in, do you react with depression, anger, etc., when someone you know and never would think, would dismiss you or talk 'smack' about you, or do you realize, this is life and you are not going to let another, even someone who might slept in the same bed with you, bring you down? (the person in this case, was not sleeping in the same bed or house, I'm just saying it as an example, so, please don't read much into that)

As for disclosing at your job, well, you just up and tell or you dummy up. Always, know, this is your choice, but once you disclose, don't think, others will not talk about you or your status. Even if it is against the law, people do talk.

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Comment by: John-Manuel Andriote (Norwich, CT) Thu., Jul. 8, 2010 at 7:16 pm EDT
I really like what read here: a woman who is speaking from a place of healing and wholeness, not brokenness. No wonder your family admire you, Vanessa!
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Comment by: aiden (ohio) Sun., Jun. 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm EDT
I originally thought this was going to be about disclosing status in the work place. How is that done safely?
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