Who should I tell?

Telling someone that you have HIV can be stressful. You may not be sure who you can trust or how a person will react. But it can also be isolating to keep it a secret. To help you decide who to tell, ask yourself:

  • Who can I trust to listen and not judge me?
  • Who can I rely on to give me the support I need and deserve?
  • Who will respect my privacy?

Most of the time, telling someone (disclosing) you have HIV is your decision. You don’t have to tell your family or friends, although if you think they might be supportive it could help you. In most cases you don’t have to tell your landlord, employer, coworkers or school. You do not have to tell your dentist or other healthcare workers, but if they know, they might be able to provide you with better care.

In Canada you do have a legal obligation to tell your sex partner(s) that you have HIV in certain circumstances. In the past, people have been charged with serious crimes for not telling their sex partners about their HIV status before having sex.

With new knowledge about the prevention benefits of HIV treatment, the laws are evolving. For the most up-to-date information on when people living with HIV have a legal duty to disclose their HIV status, visit the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network at www.aidslaw.ca.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to disclosing your HIV—who to tell, how and when to tell. Talking to another HIV-positive person can also be helpful. If you don’t know another person who is living with HIV, contact CATIE or your local HIV organization and ask if they can connect you to an individual or group.