Talking About Your HIV Status
Should You Tell Other People about Your Positive Test Result?
It's important to share your status with your sex partner(s) and/or people with whom you inject drugs. Whether you disclose your status to others is your decision.
It's important to disclose your HIV status to your sex partner(s) and anyone you shared needles with, even if you are not comfortable doing it. Communicating with each other about your HIV status means you can take steps to keep both of you healthy.
The more practice you have disclosing your HIV status, the easier it will become. Many resources can help you learn ways to disclose your status to your partners. For tips on how to start the conversation with your partner(s), check out CDC's Start Talking. Stop HIV. campaign.
If you're nervous about disclosing your test result, or you have been threatened or injured by a partner, you can ask your doctor or the local health department to help you tell your partner(s) that they might have been exposed to HIV. This type of assistance is called partner notification or partner services. Health departments do not reveal your name to your partner(s). They will only tell your partner(s) that they have been exposed to HIV and should get tested.
Many states have laws that require you to tell your sexual partners if you're HIV-positive before you have sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) or tell your drug-using partners before you share drugs or needles to inject drugs. In some states, you can be charged with a crime if you don't tell your partner your HIV status, even if you used a condom or another type of protection and the partner does not become infected.
Health Care Providers
Your health care providers (doctors, clinical workers, dentists, etc.) have to know about your HIV status in order to be able to give you the best possible care. It's also important that healthcare providers know your HIV status so that they don't prescribe medication for you that may be harmful when taken with your HIV medications.
Some states require you to disclose your HIV-positive status before you receive any health care services from a physician or dentist. For this reason, it's important to discuss the laws in your state about disclosure in medical settings with the healthcare provider who gave you your HIV test results.
Your HIV test result will become part of your medical records so that your doctor or other healthcare providers can give you the best care possible. All medical information, including HIV test results, falls under strict confidentiality laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's (HIPAA) Privacy Rule and cannot be released without your permission. There are some limited exceptions to confidentiality. These come into play only when not disclosing the information could result in harm to the other person.
Family and Friends
In most cases, your family and friends will not know your test results or HIV status unless you tell them yourself. While telling your family that you have HIV may seem hard, you should know that disclosure actually has many benefits—studies have shown that people who disclose their HIV status respond better to treatment than those who don't.
If you are under 18, however, some states allow your health care provider to tell your parent(s) that you received services for HIV if they think doing so is in your best interest. For more information, see the Guttmacher Institute's State Policies in Brief: Minors' Access to STI ServicesExit Disclaimer.
In most cases, your employer will not know your HIV status unless you tell them. But your employer does have a right to ask if you have any health conditions that would affect your ability to do your job or pose a serious risk to others. (An example might be a health care professional, like a surgeon, who does procedures where there is a risk of blood or other body fluids being exchanged.)
If you have health insurance through your employer, the insurance company cannot legally tell your employer that you have HIV. But it is possible that your employer could find out if the insurance company provides detailed information to your employer about the benefits it pays or the costs of insurance.
All people with HIV are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your HIV status as long as you can do your job. To learn more, see the Department of Justice's ADA.gov/HIV website.
It may help you to hear stories about how others are living with HIV and how they've shared their status with partners, family, and friends. Visit Positive Spin or CDC's websites for Let's Stop HIV Together and HIV Treatment Works.
For more information about sharing your HIV status, visit CDC's HIV Treatment Works campaign's content on sharing your status.
Learn more about how to protect yourself and your partners, and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC's HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).