Telling Your Family

There is no right or wrong way to talk to your family about your HIV status. Every family has a different style of communicating and a different way of handling challenges.

If your family responds in a way that hurts, or doesn’t seem supportive, try to remember that first reactions are not permanent. The way that your family responds to your news can—and probably will—change over time, as they learn more about what it means to live with HIV. One of the best things you can do is to acknowledge your family members’ feelings about your diagnosis because, in a way, they now have to live with the realities of HIV too.

While telling your family that you have HIV may seem difficult, you should know that disclosure actually has many benefits—studies have shown that people who disclose their HIV status respond better to treatment than those who don’t.

That may be because people who disclose their HIV status are more likely to have a good support system—it’s hard to have “real” relationships with your family when you are hiding a big secret like HIV. Disclosing may provide a greater degree of closeness within your family, and promote understanding and acceptance—and it may keep you healthier too!

You may find it easier, and possibly more effective, to have a third-party, such as a counselor or a family member who already knows about your diagnosis, to help you tell your family.

For more information, see the Office on Women’s Health Revealing Your HIV Status.

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Last revised: 08/23/2009