How do I talk to children about HIV?
Talking to children about HIV can be difficult. It may take longer for them to fully understand what living with HIV means and their emotional reactions may be different to older people's. Here are some tips for talking to children about HIV:
1. Before starting the conversation learn about what else is going on for the child. This will help you make sure that you tell them at a good time. Avoid times when they have exams or other big things going on in their lives.
2. Prepare for difficult questions and try and think through your answers. Be as honest as possible and try to answer their questions if you can.
3. Know that telling children is a process. It might take them a while to understand, depending on their age and circumstances. You can revisit the conversation as much as you need.
4. Use clear language and check that the child understands you. Asking them to explain it back to you can be a good way to confirm they understand.
5. Ask how they are feeling and let them set the pace. If they feel overwhelmed, you can slow down.
6. Help them get additional support from a counsellor or access peer support. There may be things that they want to talk about, but not with you. Helping them find different people to talk to will ensure that they get the different support they need.
Are there people who I am legally required to share my HIV status with?
In almost all instances your HIV status is private information that you don't have to share unless you want to.
There are very few instances where the law may require you to tell someone. The laws around 'disclosure' will depend on the country that you live. Most commonly the laws will only apply to sexual partners, in cases where there's a real risk of transmission. To understand what the law is where you live, talk to a healthcare professional.
Some people may also worry that they are required to tell their employer, but there are very few jobs that require you to share your HIV status. It normally only applies to jobs such as surgeons, where there may be a risk of transmission.
Most countries will also have laws designed to protect people living with HIV from discrimination. This means that your HIV status cannot stop you from getting jobs that you apply for or from being able to attend school.
What if I get rejected?
People may worry that sharing their HIV status will lead to rejection, especially if the person that they are telling is a romantic partner. This is something that your healthcare worker or a peer will often be able to support you with.
Remember that negative reactions are normally based on poor knowledge of HIV. Giving people the correct information on how HIV is passed on and how it can be prevented will normally reassure your partner and help you to manage their reactions. Remember that people may take time to process the information. Their first reaction may not be how they end up feeling about it later. Give them time and space to take in the news.
It's important to remember that rejection can happen to anybody, and most people will experience it at some point in their life for whatever reason. If it does happen, try not to take it personally. Having HIV is nothing to be ashamed of, and hopefully this is something that the other person will realise too.
It's up to you how, when and with who you share your status, but some people living with HIV find that sharing their status early in a relationship can be helpful. This way you can avoid wasting your time and energy on a person who might not be right for you.