5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone HIV.
1. Do you know who gave you HIV?
Your initial response to someone sharing that they’re HIV positive can have a huge impact.
Asking who or how someone contracted any sexually transmitted disease isn’t helpful. Doing so, can be perceived as an attempt to shame someone for their lifestyle, behavior(s), sexual partner(s), and their overall health. Responding insensitively to someone sharing their HIV positive status could lead to regret and isolation from sharing their status with others. Your first response shouldn’t be about how someone contracted HIV — it should be about what’s important — which is taking the steps necessary to securing and living a healthy life!
The AHF Alternative: Have you visited your doctor and discussed your treatment options?
2. How? You don’t even look sick.
You don’t have to “look sick” to have HIV. People can have HIV for years and not show any signs of being sick (asymptomatic). The notion of “looking sick” can stem from not knowing the differences between HIV and AIDS (link to Avery’s article) . It is best to watch your words when responding to someone sharing their status with you.
The AHF Alternative: What are the symptoms of HIV and how are they treated? Or 🤫and learn about the signs, symptoms, and stages of HIV on HIVcare.org
3. Don’t you use condoms?
Questioning condom usage implies that HIV was contracted through sex. HIV can be transmitted through blood transfusions, from a mother to a child during birth, and through needles. Condoms are a highly recommended method for reducing the risks of transmitting STDs and HIV but they’re not 100% effective.
Asking this question adds insult to injury. If someone living with HIV contracted it through unprotected sex, don’t you think they have already thought about that? Don’t you think they’re dealing with feelings or regret, shame, & frustration?
The AHF Alternative: Are you taking medications and going to the doctor periodically for check ups?
To find out how to get free condoms, click here.
4. Can you still have sex?
Asking about someone’s sex life is an invasive question. But then using it as a response to someone revealing to you that they’re HIV positive is undoubtedly inappropriate, especially if you aren’t this person’s partner or plan to be. The stigma around HIV can leave people feeling sexually ashamed, romantically hopeless and overly anxious about sex. Just because someone has HIV doesn’t mean that they can’t have sex. People living with HIV can have completely normal sex lives.
The advancement of medicine has allowed those living with HIV to become undetectable by taking medicine over a period of time (untransmittable) which means that the HIV can not be passed on. There are also the options of using PrEP (link to PrEP Article) & PEP for people who want to protect themselves from contracting HIV. You shouldn’t be discussing someone’s sex life unless it is asked of you.
The AHF Alternative: How are you dealing with this diagnosis?
5. Have You Shared Your Status with Others?
Clearly, they have shared the news with you which means you are important and valued by this person. Your response should be encouraging because you may be the first person to hear the news. There is a fear of being looked at differently and judged. No one wants to feel judged or looked at differently because of a medical diagnosis.
The AHF Alternative: I appreciate the fact that you felt comfortable enough to share this personal information with me. How can I help you stay healthy? Or How long have you been living with HIV?
About: AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is a global nonprofit organization providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to over 1,000,000 people in 43 countries. We are currently the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the world.