I have been giving a lot of thought to my reluctance to disclose my HIV positive status to anyone. I have been positive since 1996 and I would guess about ten people know my status. Initially I was sick and did not even consider telling anyone who didn't have the need to know because of the stigma. I told my parents but did not tell the rest of my family because I was embarrassed and did not want my parents to have to answer questions my family wouldn't ask me. I told my brothers who were very supportive but we don't talk about it.
I was scared that people would treat me different and be like "oh poor thing, she has HIV". Of course, like everyone else, I have had painful things happen at times when I did disclose. At the time, my brother's future wife was aware I was positive and we were close. Then at their wedding, all the bridesmaids were in the limo drinking champagne out of the bottle and they would not drink after me. I couldn't believe that she told them and they were so ignorant. I was too embarrassed to say anything at the time.
I went to a dentist once who told me his "hygienist had a small child and if she didn't want to work on me she didn't have to." I did take action on that one, I sent a letter to the board and he was removed from the dental plan I had.
I am an RN and worked with many HIV positive people. My coworkers were accepting of them but I didn't disclose because I didn't want them to look at our patients and think of me or censor what they said because I was around.
So those are some of the many reasons I haven't disclosed. Now we'll get to the reasons I am ready to disclose. I have taken HIV and put it in a tiny box and hidden away in a part of me that I don't visit. While this served me well for many years, it has begun to weigh on me. I want to be one of those people who put a face on this disease. So people can see it can happen to anyone. I want to be whole.
I am going to have a year clean in NA in one week. It is traditional that you tell your story on your anniversary. Promiscuous sex, unprotected sex, drug use and HIV all go hand in hand. I got HIV 20 years ago in the rooms of NA so it is a part of my story. I want people to know that just because they got off drugs doesn't mean they are safe. They need to have safe sex and get tested. Maybe by hearing me they will see that it can happen to anyone.