Who to tell & how

Think about how they may react

Remember the emotions you felt when you found out and be prepared for others to have their own reactions. Think about whether you are confident that you can deal with their reaction, and if you can trust them. Disclosing your status can be a huge relief and people who already know your status may be able to help when you tell other family members or friends. Although some people will experience rejection, many people find that friends and family can be supportive. Make it clear that knowledge of your status is something you've entrusted them with, and that it's confidential. You may want to tell them to ask your permission before they tell anyone else.

Be prepared for questions

If you are the first person they’ve known to have HIV they will be on a learning curve just as you are. Be prepared with answers to the most likely queries and use our service finder to arrange for some support for yourself afterwards. They may have questions on the basic facts or worries about protection and testing. You can also direct them to the HIV Scotland website section with information and support for partners, friends and family.

Get support

It may be helpful to talk to support services, a health care professional or someone else living with HIV before disclosing your status to family, friends and partners. They may be able to offer you support about telling people, help clarify what you want to say and even prepare you for questions you may be asked.

Know your rights

For more information on your rights, click here. If you have had any problems telling people about your status, as a result of telling them or if you are facing any problems because you didn’t tell someone please let us know so we can find you the right support.

Read below for more information on your rights on disclosing to different groups:

Current sexual partner(s):

It’s essential that you take precautions so that you don’t pass on HIV to others. For more information on reducing risk see here.

There are two effective and reliable methods of reducing transmission: being on treatment and; using condoms and water based lube (which is the most effective means of stopping not only HIV but also other sexual infections).

In Scotland there has been a small number of criminal convictions of people who were found to not have taken sufficient precautions to stop others being infected, such as not using condoms or not being on treatment. Take a look at our sections on HIV and the law and on telling your sexual partners you have HIV.

The crown office guidance also offers useful information on criminal convictions.

You may also think about telling a sexual partner about your status if something goes wrong, like if a condom breaks. If this does occur there is a treatment option called PEP or Post Exposure Prophylaxis that needs to be taken within 72 hours of the possible transmission. This treatment can stop the possible transmission, but you should try to access it as soon as possible after the incident, as although it may work 72 hours after the event it works better the sooner it is taken after the risk incident. You should be able to access PEP from your local A & E.

Previous sexual partners:

If you’ve been diagnosed with HIV it may be relevant to inform previous sexual partners so that they too can get tested. Your HIV specialist or sexual health clinic will be able to help guide you through this.

Your healthcare workers:

Despite receiving care from your HIV specialist, like anyone else you will probably need to visit other services from time to time. There is no legal obligation to disclose to GP, dentists and other hospital- based specialists in Scotland, but however it might allow them to provide the most appropriate care for you. If you do not want other health care providers to know your status, be sure to make this clear to your HIV specialist so they can know not to mention it in any referral letters. GPs and dentists are not allowed to refuse you registration because of your HIV status. Find out more about telling healthcare workers about your status.

Your employer:

Many people living with HIV see no need to tell their employer about their HIV status. For the majority of jobs, it is not a legal requirement to tell your employer. However, there are a few exceptions, such as healthcare work which involves ‘“exposure-prone procedures’” such as surgery or dentistry. If you do chose to tell your employer it is illegal for them to discriminate against you because of your status. HIV is protected as a listed disability under the 2010 Equality Act. Find out more about telling your employer.

Your school or college:

If you are a student or you have children with HIV it is not a requirement to inform the school or college. Some people feel able to discuss it with the school and do so to help discuss time off that may be needed if sickness occurs. Know that people living with HIV are protected under the Equality Act 2010 so no one is allowed to discriminate against you because of your status. It is also a good idea to encourage the school to visit the HIV Scotland website and read the basics about HIV.

Your children:

Some people tell their children and other choose not to. You may be concerned that they too have HIV, and when you are tested they probably will too. Find out more about how to tell your children.