The initial diagnosis
After the initial diagnosis it is important to take some time to think and relax. You don’t need to rush out and tell people straight away, but you may find it helpful to have some supportive friends and family around you.
You might have friends living with HIV who could be a good source of support.
Following your initial diagnosis, you will be offered an opportunity to see an HIV specialist. You may find you have more questions or want more information over time. Start making a list of any questions you think of in the next few weeks.
NZAF offers free counselling and support to anyone affected by HIV. There is also a network of HIV peer support groups, and HIV specialists around the country you can get in touch with.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this website is a good place to start browsing. It’s packed full of useful information and resources. You can also call us on 0800 802 437 at any time to chat to a support person, or book an appointment to speak to one of our counsellors in person.
Talking about your diagnosis
Some people experience a feeling of isolation when they find out they are living with HIV. Being diagnosed with HIV is a personal experience, and it’s up to you to decide when and who you feel confident to disclose your HIV status to.
You don’t have to tell your friends, employers or work colleagues if you don’t want to. New Zealand has a robust human rights framework that protects people living with HIV
You can find out more about HIV and the law here.
Telling others of your diagnosis is easier if you have given yourself time to feel ready. Under New Zealand law, you are not obligated to tell your sexual partners your HIV status as long as you are using condoms every time.
When deciding who to disclose to, you may wish to ask yourself these questions to help you decide whether you can trust someone with the information that you’re living with HIV:
- Will they offer me support?
- Will they judge me?
- Will they respect my confidentiality?
- Will it help me if they know?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, the person you are considering telling may not be the best choice. Try to find someone you feel sure will be supportive, non-judgmental, discreet and helpful. A counsellor or peer-support person may be able to help you make the best decision.
Once you have decided who to tell, you might find it useful to let them know who else you have told so that they can support each other, as well as you.
Telling your doctor or healthcare professional
It is important to develop a good relationship with your doctor, and to talk to your GP or health professional about your status. Monitoring your health and making sure you have the right treatment options available to you will increase your wellbeing.
It is wise to tell health professionals you are seeing for other conditions that you are living with HIV. However, you do not have to disclose your HIV status to every doctor, dentist or other healthcare professional.
Letting them know will give them a clear picture of your health and be able to help you make decisions about your health. Your healthcare provider cannot reveal your HIV status to anyone, except in extreme and unusual circumstances (for example, if someone else’s safety is involved, such as some cases of non-consensual sex brought to the attention of the police), and they should inform you first.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor for any reason, talk with them about your concerns. If you are still not satisfied, remember you have the right to choose a different doctor that you trust and feel comfortable with, or who has more knowledge about HIV. NZAF can help you to find doctors or health professionals who have HIV expertise and experience.
After an HIV diagnosis, you will be asked about your recent sexual partners. This is called contact tracing, a process to find out whether anyone else may have been unknowingly exposed to HIV and to alert them to get tested. It’s important to be honest here so those people can get tested. Don’t worry – your identity cannot be disclosed by your doctor and your recent partners will be contacted anonymously.
Telling your partner
If you are in a relationship with someone who is HIV negative, or if you have multiple casual partners whose HIV status you may or may not know, you may want to tell them.
It can help to have a counsellor experienced in working with HIV issues available to help you if and when you decide to tell your partner(s). There are no set rules about telling your partner(s), regardless of their HIV status, and you may feel scared or uncomfortable telling them. Despite the fears you might have, many people have found they received support when they shared the news. It may even strengthen your relationship.
Your partner(s), husband or wife might also want to consider testing for HIV, especially if you have been having sex without condoms or sharing injecting equipment.