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How to Tell Your Partner You're HIV Positive

by Kelly Morris, studioD

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a sexually transmitted disease. It can be transmitted in other ways, too, such as by sharing needles for intravenous drug use with an infected person. It cannot be transmitted by holding hands, hugging, sharing dishes or drinking out of the same glass as someone with the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there is a remote chance of transmitting the virus during kissing if the person with the infection has bleeding gums. If you’re HIV positive, meaning, if you have the virus, you need to tell your partner before engaging in any activities that could transmit the infection.

Decide When to Tell

Decide when to tell your partner about your HIV status. This may be more information than you want to share on the first date, when you don’t know if the relationship will progress. However, you need to discuss the issue before you become sexually involved with a new partner. You might share this information when you and a new partner discuss things like the use of condoms, other sexually transmitted infections and birth control.

Pick the Right Place and Time

Choose the right time and place for the discussion. Choose a time when you won’t be rushed, no one will interrupt you and you and your partner are fairly relaxed and calm. Have this discussion in a private place where no one will overhear.

Be Direct

Speak honestly and directly. Don’t drop hints and hope your partner catches your meaning. If your partner asks questions you don’t want to answer, like how did you contract HIV, don’t make something up. Just say, “I’m not comfortable discussing that.”

Expect Questions

Prepare in advance for the likelihood that your partner will have questions or concerns. Your partner will probably ask how you contracted the virus, so decide in advance how you’ll answer that question. Your partner may need some information about the virus and how it can be transmitted. Your doctor or local health department may have some pamphlets or other materials you can offer your partner. If your partner needs to get tested for HIV, suggest he or she contact a doctor or call the local health department to find out where to get a confidential HIV test (many health departments offer them at no cost).

If You Need Help

If you need help telling your partner you are HIV positive, ask your doctor for assistance or call your local health department and ask if a counselor there can assist you.

Know the Laws in Your State

AIDS.gov, a website operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes that some states have laws requiring people who have HIV to disclose their status to sexual partners. If you fail to tell your partner you are HIV positive and your partner gets HIV, you may face criminal charges. Contact your local health department or talk to your doctor or an attorney about laws in your state.

About the Author

Kelly Morris has been making a living as a writer since 2004. She attended the College of Mount St. Joseph with a major in social work and minor in women's studies. Her work has appeared in a number of print publications including Caregivers Home Companion, Midwifery Today and Guide.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images