Disclosure occurs when you share important and private news with someone. HIV disclosure means telling someone that you have HIV. This remains one of the most difficult challenges for women living with HIV.

If you’re thinking about disclosing to someone, try asking yourself these questions:

  • What could be good about telling?
  • What could be bad?
  • What could happen after you disclose?

Coming up with a plan is one of the best ways to prepare for disclosure. Contact Positive Women’s Network if you want to talk it through, or check out our pages on disclosing to partners and children, as well as our series of  disclosure guides. If you are threatened in any way because of your HIV-positive status, contact an advocate for support. You have rights.

Who do you have to tell?

In most cases, you are not legally obligated to tell anyone that you have HIV. This includes the following:

  • family and friends
  • employers and coworkers
  • landlords and neighbours
  • schools and teachers
  • doctors, nurses, dentists, and other health care professionals
  • other service providers, such as social workers, counsellors, and massage therapists

If there is a question on an application or intake form asking about your HIV-positive status, you do not have to answer it. It should be up to you whether you want to disclose. Health care professionals and other service providers do not need to know which patients or clients have HIV. They should always be following universal precautions and using sterilized equipment.

In some situations, it may be beneficial to tell a service provider that you have HIV. For example, if you are end up sick in the emergency room at the hospital, and a doctor wants to start you on new medication, you may want to share which antiretroviral drugs you are currently taking to avoid drug interactions.

Exceptions

There are two cases where you are legally required to disclose:

  1. If you will be learning or working in a health care setting where there is a real risk of HIV exposure, you may be legally required to disclose to a health facility or regulatory body. The rules vary by profession and province or territory, so check to see what is legally required where you live.
  2. You must tell partners that you have HIV before having sex, according to the criminal law in Canada. The only time you do not have to tell them is when you use condoms AND your viral load is below 1,500 copies/mL. You can learn more about the law from this brochure and by reading more of our website.