Supporting self-disclosure

Throughout our lives, we will probably know people who are living with HIV, or are affected by it via close family members. They may be people at our school or college, at work or old and new friends. How can we create a relationship and an atmosphere where people living with HIV can be open about their status without fear of stigma or prejudice?

When someone is HIV positive, it is likely that during different stages of their life they will have a number of different experiences of disclosing their status. It is a process they will experience over several years with different people in their life. If someone discloses his or her HIV status to you, how can you make it a positive experience for both of you?

In your groups, imagine someone tells you they are HIV positive. Think about how you might react to this and what skills, knowledge and understanding you would need to make the person feel supported. Use these questions to guide your discussion:

  • How would the relationship between you affect your response? Sibling, friend, date, boyfriend/girlfriend etc. What does your answer reveal about your knowledge and understanding of HIV?

  • If it were you, how would you want the other person to respond?
    What would you not want them to do/say?

  • Can you listen actively while someone else talks? What do you think this means? Why might it be important when someone is telling you about his or her HIV status?

  • Can you be judgmental of others? Do you have any particular prejudice about HIV that would affect how you respond? If so, how might your prejudice make the other person feel?

  • Can you offer options for support? Do you know where to look for support? How can you find out?

  • Can you keep it to yourself? Why is this important? How will you manage this if you are someone who likes to talk a lot about other people and their lives?

Now watch these people living with HIV talk about their experiences of disclosing their status to others.

Rob Harrap
Simon Bishop

Based on your discussions and what you have watched here, make a list of suggestions for supportive ways to respond when someone tells you their HIV status.