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The following story was provided by Positive Women Victoria (Australia).

Those of you who know me know that there are three things I like to talk about - Sex, Drugs and me! I am quite public about my being HIV Positive and feel there is nothing that I need to apologise for in my past. Certainly my whole life is not an open book but rather a note pad with some pages missing. What I tell about my life and myself is rather dependent on the target audience.


Telling my family, in particular my parents, was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Not only did I have to tell them that I was HIV positive but also that I was an injecting drug user. Something that I had kept hidden for many years. There were tears of sadness and disappointment flowing from all direction. I felt like I had been a major disappointment to my parents, I had failed them as a daughter, or so I felt at the time. Many years have passed since that fateful day and we have all come to some level of understanding and agreement.

 

Going public was the next big step for me, not something that everyone has to do. I remember the first newspaper article I ever did, and this was long before HIV came into my life. I went public about being unemployed and living in St.Kilda. My father was horrified that I could do such a thing to the good family name in such a public forum as a newspaper. In retrospect I got more support over coming out as HIV positive than I did about being a long term unemployed.
You don't have to go public in a feature length article in a Sunday Newspaper as I did recently but having people around you who know of your status and have some understanding of HIV and living with a long term, chronic but manageable illness rather than a death sentence. Being clear within yourself about what sort of support you need and whom can best provide it will help you with disclosing. Ask yourself who needs to know and why they need to know. A common theme that I have found in telling others is that they end up with a need to tell someone else, and so it goes on. This is something to be wary of. A secret can be a great burden to some people and the need to unload can be too much for some people. Keep this in mind when telling other people about being HIV positive.


Before you go announcing your status all over the World Wide Web think carefully of where your "burden to tell" lies: who do you need to tell versus those you want to tell. Telling others can be life altering and sometimes painful so think carefully before you go exposing your soul to the world and be sure to have some sort of net in place to catch you if you should happen to topple unexpectedly. If you have a negative response from someone whom you thought would have responded differently don't let it dissuade you from seeking support from friends, support workers or counsellors.


Don't rush into disclosing to all and sundry, think carefully before acting. We can all make the mistake of telling someone who doesn't need to know. There are laws to protect you from discrimination and or vilification in the work place, home environment and public places. The bedroom is another area that needs careful consideration and negotiation. Safer sex is an obligation you have to yourself if no one else. In regard to legal obligations there is only a 'moral' need to disclose your status to prospective sexual partners not a legal need. If you have unprotected sex that can be construed as high risk then there is a chance that there are legal ramifications. Good luck with establishing a support network of well-informed friends and colleagues. Better luck with sexual liaisons.

Story by Sonja. Positive Women Victoria. Added to site, 1999.

 
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