Sharing your HIV status can be daunting. You might not feel ready to tell anyone at all, and that’s ok too – but remember there is no shame in having HIV.
Key things to know
There is no legal requirement to tell your sexual partners that you have HIV if you are on HIV treatment, have an undetectable viral load and use a condom.
However, if you had sex with someone without a condom before getting diagnosed, it’s important you let them know so they can get tested. You can ask for help with telling your partners about your HIV status at the sexual health clinic. This is called ‘partner notification’.
We can also support you when it comes to deciding how and when to share your status.
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To tell or not to tell?
Coping with your HIV diagnosis can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. On top of that, you need to make a very important decision about whether to share your status with other people. There are a lot of things to think about.
Once you’ve made a decision to share you HIV status with someone, remember to:
- Be prepared: plan what to say, how to say it and have information on HIV that you can give out to people so they can learn more about HIV
- Be safe: choose the right time and place, and maybe have a friend nearby to help
Laws are different depending on where you live. In Scotland, you are not legally required to tell your sexual partners unless all of the following apply:
- You know or suspect that you have HIV,
- You know or suspect that you have a detectable viral load,
- You have sex without a condom.
If these apply and your partners don’t know that you have HIV, you might be charged with ‘reckless endangerment’ or ‘reckless exposure’, even if they don’t acquire HIV.
Laws in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are slightly different. You can read more about HIV, sex and the law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on the charity NAM’s website.
If there’s a chance you’ll have sex whilst abroad, remember to check the law in that country.
There is no legal obligation for you to tell your employer that you have HIV, apart from very few cases, such as some jobs in healthcare. If you do choose to tell your employer about your status, they will be legally required to keep this information confidential and not share it with anyone.
If you experience any stigma, discrimination or harassment in your workplace because of your HIV status, you are protected under the law. Read more about your rights when living with HIV.
If you’ve been diagnosed at a HIV clinic and are receiving treatment through them, your GP will not be aware of your status. It might be a good idea to tell your GP or a dentist that you have HIV although you don’t have to.
Your health and medical information is protected by law, which means that healthcare professionals cannot share your information with anyone without your consent. There are some exceptions to this, for example HIV clinic staff might share your HIV status or your medication if you are referred to a different hospital to ensure your quality of care.
It might be useful for your GP to know your HIV status so they can provide you with the best medical care. Some medications can interact with your HIV treatment, so it is important that your GP knows about it when prescribing other medication.
Telling your dentist that you have HIV might have benefits, as they will be able to check for any dental problems that are more common in people living with HIV.
Looking for support?
If you are living with HIV and need support understanding a new diagnosis, treatment or navigating life with HIV, we are here to help. Get in touch with us by filling out our contact form.