Saturday, April 24, 2010

Unsafe Sex and HIV Disclosure: Should I disclose?

>A recent request for questions resulted in someone asking what I think is one of the MOST difficult questions in sexuality/HIV prevention. “Should I disclose HIV status when I’m having unsafe sex?”

My short answer is “yes.”

My long answer is also “yes,” but probably not for the reason one would think.

Before I go into my response, I highlight the level of fear, AIDS phobia, inaccurate knowledge, and generally rude behaviors by many negative individuals toward positive individuals. The level of discrimination by negatives toward positives is sad and disappointing given that we are 25+ years into the epidemic. I also highlight all the reasons the CDC, and other prevention workers would say yes: we all have a responsibility toward stopping the epidemic.

But, in my opinion, the reason a person should disclose his or her HIV status is the expression of the individual’s own mental health. I think it is incredibly brave and courageous when an individual stands up and says, “This is me.” When an individual discloses their HIV status, I think it represents a level of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and overall inner strength where he or she also says, “This is me, if you don’t like it, deal with it.” I recognize this level of self-knowledge and self-acceptance is a bit utopian, but then again that’s what we psychologists move toward: helping an individual claim a level of pride and integrity in all aspects of his or her life. If you’re not at that point, I think it can be a goal. Finding someone (or many someones) who will walk with you in that journey is important.

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