Telling other people that you're living with HIV can be difficult for many reasons. Some people still hold misconceptions about HIV and are not clued up on the reality of living with HIV in the UK today, and you may be concerned about negative consequences. This page is here to help guide you on the different circumstances where you might disclose your HIV status.
Telling other people
Telling people that you’re HIV positive can be a daunting prospect.
How should I go about telling my previous partners that I’ve been diagnosed with HIV?
If you are concerned that you may have put others at risk of HIV, you can discuss how to tell the person or people concerned with your HIV clinic. This is standard procedure and is known as ‘partner notification’.
Most HIV positive people either speak to the person themselves, or agree that they can be contacted and invited to the clinic to have an HIV test. In this situation, you will not be mentioned by name, although the person being contacted may be able to work out who it is.
What about telling other people about my HIV status, such as friends and family?
Deciding who to tell about your HIV status can be difficult and your decision will be based on your personal situation. The website My HIV has lots of information on telling people, such as friends, family, or partners, as well as advice on dealing with the situation.
You can also access peer support via the Community Forums, and learn about other people's experiences of telling people their HIV status.
Do I have to tell my employer or colleagues about my HIV status?
Apart from jobs where there are occupational restrictions for people living with HIV, you do not have to tell your employer about your HIV status unless you want to.
It is now against the law for employers to ask you any questions about your health before they offer you a job. In addition, it is best practice for most employers not to ask you about your HIV status even after a job offer has been made. It is therefore possible that you may not have to disclose your HIV status at work.
However, if you are asked to disclose your HIV status after you have been offered a job, think carefully about how you respond. Failing to disclose honestly on a medical questionnaire could be considered by an employer as grounds for termination of employment.
There are some advantages to disclosing your status at work. Some of the rights available under equality legislation can only be accessed by people who have told their employer about their HIV status. For example, if your employer knows you are living with HIV, you can ask your boss to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for you, such as letting you have time off to see your doctor or giving you flexible working hours so you can deal with illness or side-effects from your medication. If you do tell your boss that you have HIV, they should keep this information confidential unless you tell them you are happy for this information to be shared.
Ultimately the decision is yours as to whether you disclose your HIV status at work or not. You may decide not to tell people straight away, but at a later date you may find it beneficial to let your employer know (for example, if your treatment changes and you experience side-effects). The decision is entirely yours, but you should take the time to consider the best choice for your individual circumstances.
To find out more about your rights in applying for jobs download our guide HIV Recruitment: Advice for job applicants with HIV. For information about your rights in employment visit our sections on employment and confidentiality, or download NAT’s guide HIV @ Work – Advice for employees living with HIV.
I want to disclose my HIV status at work – who is the best person to speak to?
Deciding on who to speak to at work about your HIV status depends on your personal situation. Some people may decide to be entirely open about their HIV status whereas others may prefer to keep it on ‘need to know’ basis. If you want to ask for reasonable adjustments (to make it easier for you to carry out your role) only your HR manager or immediate manager need to know (in order to authorise time off for medical appointments, for example). After that it is your choice who you tell. If you do only want one or two staff members to know, there are confidentiality rules in place to protect your privacy.
Do I have to tell my GP about my HIV status?
You do not have to tell your GP about your HIV status if you do not wish to do so. Your HIV doctor is obliged to keep your HIV status confidential and this means not passing it on to your GP without your consent. However, if you specifically don’t want your GP to know, it is worth notifying your HIV doctor of this so they can be extra aware.
To find out more about confidentiality in healthcare visit our section on confidentiality or download our guide Personal information and the NHS: a guide for people living with HIV.
Do I have to tell my dentist about my HIV status?
Dentists have to follow universal precautions (the rules in place to stop people coming into contact with bodily fluids like blood, by wearing gloves for example) and for this reason there is no need for your dentist to know your HIV status.
Do I have to disclose my HIV status if I am applying for insurance?
When applying for insurance, you may be asked on the application form if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. If you have been diagnosed with HIV you have to disclose this on the application. If you do not, the insurance company can refuse to pay you when you make a claim.
When filling out the application, you might also have to sign a form confirming that you consent to your GP disclosing health information about you. If your GP is then contacted by the insurance company (and you have consented to your information being shared), they will have an obligation to provide all relevant information to the insurance company, including your HIV positive status.
How can I support NAT’s work or give my feedback?
NAT is always keen to get feedback from people living with HIV. It’s good for us to know if our information and resources are helpful or if there other things you want to know. Your experiences can also inform our policy work and assist us in campaigning for people living with HIV to be treated fairly, and with dignity and respect. To get in touch with us, please visit our feedback page and let us know your thoughts.
NAT’s vital work can only continue with the generous help of our supporters. There are many ways you can support us without costing you a penny, such as getting involved in Press Gang, becoming an HIV Activist or signing up to a ‘no cost’ fundraising activity. If you’d like to support our work, click here to find out the different ways you can help.