Immunology Center

HIV Support and Advice

Who can I talk to about HIV?

Finding out you have HIV is a life-changing event. You may feel anxious, irritable, jumpy, or scared. It is normal to be angry, at yourself for taking risks, at the person you believe may have infected you and at the world. One of the most important things you can do is to find someone to talk to. Here are some options:

  • There are support groups of people living with HIV are helpful for many people. Being with others who are dealing with the same things can help you feel less alone. You may also learn new information about treatments and services.
  • Talk with a social worker about individual counseling and care options. This is a safe way to share your feelings, and it may help you see the issues more clearly.

Who do I have to tell?

Telling someone else that you are HIV positive can be very difficult, and there are many things to consider when telling another person. Wait until you feel ready before you tell others you have HIV. Whoever you do tell, be sure that you trust them to support you. It’s a good idea to remind them that it is up to you to tell others (not them). It may take people time to accept the news.

For anyone who may have been unknowingly put at risk (for example, previous or current sexual partners) it is important to inform them so that they can get tested. Here are some options for doing this:

  • Tell the person yourself. Your social worker or doctor can give you some ideas for how to do this.
  • Bring the person to your doctor’s office. You can tell them there, and your social worker or doctor can answer questions.
  • Bring the person to your doctor’s office. You can tell them there, and your social worker or doctor can answer questions.
  • Use Partner Services. Call 401-639-6315. This is a Department of Health program that will inform the individuals at risk without telling them your name.
  • If you face domestic violence, telling a partner your HIV status may put you at even greater risk. Talk to your doctor about this issue. For more information about keeping yourself safe, contact the Rhode Island Victims of Violence Hotline at 800-494-8100.

How do I talk to my partner or a future partner about HIV and safer sex?

Telling a partner you have HIV or that you want to have safer sex can be scary, confusing and embarrassing. You may fear being rejected or left alone. But sooner or later, it will be important to talk about HIV with your partner. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. If you talk with your partner before you get into a situation where HIV could be spread, then you and your partner can make choices together about safer sex.

Here are some things to think about before you tell someone that you’re HIV positive: 

  • Think about how you would like to have this information told to you, if you were the partner.
  • Get support and advice on talking to partners from your HIV doctor or social worker.
  • Telling your partner you have HIV may bring on a strong reaction. Be sure that you have support regardless of how your partner responds.
  • If you are going to be in a situation where HIV could be spread, practice safer sex. This is the single most important thing you can do.
  • If you feel unsafe telling your partner, talk to your HIV doctor, social worker or counselor.
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This material was developed by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., and funded by a Centers for Disease Control Prevention grant.