Ask Amy: No obligation to disclose HIV status to family

FresnoApril 22, 2014 

Dear Amy: I was diagnosed with HIV. My husband, who thankfully is not infected, and I decided that we would wait a year before telling anyone.

It has been four years now and I have yet to tell anyone. I have a conservative family, and the thought of having to tell them is scary to me. Not only that but there is an embarrassment factor — the fact that I did not take care of my body or take the proper precautions.

Is it my responsibility to tell the people in my life? Do they have a right to know?

— Getting better

Dear Getting Better: I realize there is stigma attached to HIV, but it might help to attain some clarity if you could see this as a health concern that is chronic but manageable and ultimately concerns only you and any sexual partners.

So, imagine you have lupus. Would you disclose this to your parents? You might if you were having symptoms. Otherwise, maybe not. Disclosing a health condition is a very intimate act.

I shared your question with Kelly Ducheny, a psychologist and director of behavioral health at Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago. She has a ready answer: "It is completely every individual person's choice who they tell — and how and when, or if they tell. You are under no obligation to disclose anything about your HIV status. Furthermore, there is not one option that is healthier than another.

"If you do decide to tell people, have a plan for how to disclose it and support standing by. Understand that there is a processing period when people receive this news and their initial reaction may not be their permanent reaction."

Dear Amy: I enjoyed your answer to "Wife and Mom," who wrote about her husband's issue over their son's long hair. My second son started letting his hair grow in junior high. My wife and I wisely left him alone. When it reached his collar, the school sent a note home with him requesting us to enforce a dress code.

I replied, in writing, that they should be more interested in what was inside his head than outside, and the matter was dropped.

Guess who became a hero to his son? By the time he graduated high school, his hair was almost to his waist. He went on to graduate college with honors and now he has a successful career, a good marriage and two great kids of his own!

And his hair is comfortably above his collar.

— Robert in Conn.

Dear Robert: I have enjoyed reading dozens of responses to this hair-y question.


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