HIV Disclosure: When is the RIGHT time

Disclosing your HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) status is an intensely personal decision that should be made with careful consideration, taking several factors, including your own welfare and the well-being of those you interact with, when making your decision.

By Cindy Pivacic.


There is no one-size-fits-all answer to when the right time is to disclose your HIV status, as it can differ depending on individual circumstances. 

Even a confident person, such as myself had anxious moments up until disclosing my HIV status six years into my diagnosis. Here are some tactical considerations to help you determine the right time for disclosure:

Your Comfort and Readiness: First and foremost, you should disclose your HIV status when you are emotionally and mentally ready. Take the time to process your diagnosis, educate yourself about HIV, and come to terms with your own feelings before discussing it with others.

Legal Requirements: South Africa does not allow discrimination and protects people’s right to privacy and confidentiality. In South Africa, there are no laws that force people to tell others about their HIV status. 

Intimate Relationships: It is generally advisable to disclose your HIV status to intimate partners before engaging in any activity. This allows for informed consent and the opportunity to discuss safer sex practices. 

Close Friends and Family: Sharing your status with close friends and family members can provide you with emotional support and understanding. Consider disclosing to them when you feel comfortable, and trust that they will be supportive.

Workplace: You are not obligated to disclose your HIV status to your employer unless it directly affects your ability to perform your job safely and effectively. In such cases, disclosing to HR or a supervisor may be necessary.

Community and Activism: Some individuals choose to disclose their HIV status as a form of advocacy or to raise awareness. This can be a powerful way to reduce discrimination and promote understanding. There are many people in South Africa that have taken on this role and are generally open to guiding new and not so recent diagnosed people through the process of disclosure. My decision to disclose in 2011 was partly due to the fact that there were so many people that did not have support in the early years of HIV, and were extremely fearful of rejection.  

Timing: Be mindful of the timing of disclosure carefully. It’s generally better to disclose when you have the recipient’s full attention and can have a private, uninterrupted conversation.

Education: Be prepared to provide accurate information about HIV, its transmission, treatment, and prevention, and current trends and developments when you disclose. This can help dispel misconceptions and reduce the fear.

Support Networks: Seek support from HIV support groups or counselling services to help you navigate the process of disclosure. They can offer guidance and emotional support. It may be that you choose to have a mediator to ease the process of disclosure with close friends and family.

Safety: Assess the safety of the situation. If you fear negative repercussions or violence, prioritise your safety above disclosure. Seek assistance from support organisations or law enforcement if necessary.

The right time to disclose your HIV status varies from person to person and situation to situation and lies entirely on your choice. It’s essential to prioritise your well-being and consider the potential impact on those you disclose to. Ultimately, your decision should be made with careful consideration and in a way that aligns with your own values and needs.

For further information: 

A chronic condition can affect anyone. How you manage it is what makes the difference.

You can get cover of up to 3 million rand for your chronic health condition and up to 10 million if you are living with HIV.

SMS CHRONIC to 33857 to find out more. 

I did!

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only.

It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure, and is not a substitute for professional consultation with a health professional.


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