What Does Disclosure Look Like for You?
To start - let's just say there is no right or wrong way to disclose, and disclosure looks how you want it to look. I want you to know that you should not feel pressured to disclose because you see others doing it.
There are a lot of ways to disclose. That could be sharing with family and friends, sharing with your employer, or a potential partner, or sharing it with the world. A person must be ready to share this one thing that others may feel is one of the worst things ever but remember - it's not.
HIV is how you perceive it, how you feel about it, and how you fight mentally about it. We can make ourselves feel a certain way because we will not allow our minds to think otherwise.
Have you disclosed your HIV status to family members?
Disclosing to family
So, what does disclosing look like for you is the question? Meaning if you feel that it is time to have that talk with family and friends then you may want to set up a dinner or a lunch and invite them over. Sometimes having a warm, comfortable atmosphere that is familiar to you and them can help facilitate the conversation. So please be prepared and educate yourself so you can do that with ease.
My experience with disclosure was different. I had one sister who lived in the same state, 2 other sisters lived in another state, and my mother in another as well. So, my sister and I both decided to call the other 2 sisters on 3-way to let them know that I was living with HIV, and we called our mother separately. Everyone cried, but my family never treated me any different.
Disclosing to people at work
What about at work, well if you feel there is a need to disclose then do so, but I never thought that an employer had to know unless there was a need for them to know. There may be a person you have become close to at work, and you may want to share with them.
For me there was someone in 2004 I became close to at work. I was not open with my status, but I had to let her know because it was when my HIV medications were changed, and they were making me extremely sick.
I was driving a bus and had 2 different shifts, one in the morning taking handicapped teens to school and when I brought my bus in, I started another shift picking up seniors to take them to their appointments.
When my second shift started, it was usually slow so she would allow me to go home to lay down and would call me when there was a pick-up. I really appreciated her for that, and this woman never told anyone that I was living with HIV.
Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace?
Disclosing to love interests
When it comes to disclosing to someone you are interested in, please be sure if this is a person you want to tell. What you can do is have a conversation about sex, HIV testing, and prevention.
Ask them if they have ever been tested for STDs and see what they say. If that person has terrible things to say about HIV, then maybe you may not want to tell them. But also, when you decide to do so make sure you are in a safe space, because sometimes individuals can be crazy. I say give it about a week or 2 so you can get a feel for who they are.
I have always disclosed to men I have met and each time I did it became much easier to do. In the 26 years of living with HIV there was only one man who could not deal with me living with HIV. This was because he had a sister who passed away from AIDS-related complications.
We remained friends for a few years but drifted apart once the army moved him to another state. He thanked me for disclosing and I remember him saying to me that I opened his eyes because he was always willing to have sex without a condom, and now he saw that he may be putting myself at risk.
I have also learned that when I do disclose to men, they have respected me more for doing so.
Disclosing to the world
Now, when you want to finally tell the world be sure that is what you want to do. My reason for telling society was that I knew I wanted to help others and putting a face to HIV would help with the stigma.
I put a plan together, reached out to all family members that included cousins, aunties, and uncles. I let them all know that I was going to disclose in a video on social media.
I was scared and nervous, but because I knew my family was with me it made it so much easier. When I posted the video there were people who live with HIV that started commenting and engaging with.
I felt doing that would normalize HIV and I want you to know your "why" when doing this. Remember, if it is not for you then do not do it because once you put it out into the universe you cannot take it back.
Have you ever been unhoused or insecurely housed?