Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Peter, when is the best time or what is the best approach to inform people of your status?

[Peter Pointers is here 4 YOU, as a service to LifeLube readers - whatever question you may have regarding sexual healthy, physical health, mental/emotional and spiritual health - ask him. He will find the answers you are looking 4. Below is a recent Q&A you may be interested to read.]

Question: When is the best time or what is the best approach to inform people of your status? I've been diagnosed for the past few years, and maintained good health and great numbers in regards to my counts and all. Even to the point, that I've become undetectable (all praises to God!). My doctor has informed me that at my stage, I can't really infect anyone. So now that I'm on the dating scene, obviously all of this is of extreme importance. Of course, I'm fully aware of the obvious in terms of cautiousness and the practice of safe sex (which I practically live by). But even if it doesn't get that point of having sex with someone and merely just friendship, I'm just a little uncertain how to approach this matter. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not ashamed of my status of anything like that, but rather a bit apprehensive of facing rejection or even scrutiny, you know. So if you could offer some advice to me on how to approach this issue, it will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Answer: First of all, great job on working with your doctor to have your numbers under control. Keep up the good work on adhering to your meds (if your doctor has you on them) and staying on top of your health.

To clarify what your doctor said about infectiousness, carrying a non-detectable viral load does greatly reduce the possibility of infecting a partner. However, as with most things in health and science - there is still a possibility of transmission. That's why it's great that you are so committed to practicing safe sex. Keep that up, too! Here's some more info, if you wanted, on viral load and transmission (previously posted on LifeLube):




Now, onto the question of HIV disclosure: You raise a really important issue that many people often ponder. There are a number of ways that people might approach disclosure of their HIV status to people they may be interested in, whether its potential sex partners, people you might date, or even friends. There is, of course, no formula for the best approach. And ultimately, it will depend on your level of comfort as well as varying circumstances from one situation to another.

Some people find it easiest to disclose their HIV status upfront, meaning very close to when they meet the person, in that if the individual they disclose to does not respond to their liking, they will have avoided becoming emotionally invested enough to be very upset. “Upfront” disclosure can also be good in that you can bypass any of the anxiety about disclosure that can linger if you wait. Of course, this might mean disclosing to an awful lot of people, and most might not want to do this. Also, taking this approach is kind of like creating a pre-emptive shield from an assumed negative response, and it probably wouldn’t feel very good to walk around assuming that anyone you disclose to is going to have a poor reaction.

Most people probably want to disclose when they have a fair idea that the person they’re considering talking to is a good person and will not react in some extreme way. So, after concluding with relative comfort that disclosure will not jeopardize your safety (or feelings), it’s good to be straightforward and to communicate to the person in one way or another that your health status is something you have under control. Disclose in a place that is suitable for discussion, not someplace that lacks privacy or has an excess of noise.

If, when disclosing, you present your HIV status as a detriment or problem, chances are the person might piggyback on the sentiment, and also think it is a problem. Exude confidence. HIV is a life situation that many people deal with, and you should be proud of how you have responded to the situation. I mean, look, you’re undetectable and you are engaged in your medical care and well-being; you are doing well!

Another thing to consider is disclosing your status before engaging in any sex. Not only do most state laws require this, but, say in the example of a trick or one-night stand, if you were to decide that you wanted to see the person again, it would be a lot more challenging to disclose your status after the two of you already had sex. Disclose beforehand, and you won’t have to worry about this type of backtracking.

Good luck and, while it may always be a challenge to disclose, know that it probably gets easier over time. Please, don't hesitate to let me know how it goes!

Be Well,
Peter Pointers
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