When, who and why to tell someone you are HIV positive is your choice.
Some people find it more difficult than others. However, people can find sharing their status often brings a sense of relief and the possibility of support.
When deciding who you would like to tell (such as a friend, family member or employer) it can be valuable for you to think about the possible reactions of both you and the person you’re telling. This may help you feel more prepared and confident.
Remember, deciding who you would like to tell is a personal choice and not a legal obligation.
There is no right or wrong way to decide when or where or even how, but if you do decide to tell somebody it may be helpful to reflect on the following:
- Who do I want to tell?
- Why do I want to tell them?
- Who can support me with sharing?
- How knowledgeable and comfortable am I in answering questions about HIV?
- What supports might my partner, friends, family need? Would they require literature, organisational support, or counselling? Where would I be able to access this information?
Sharing with your Healthcare Providers
Although you are not legally obliged to share your HIV status, it is in your best interest to share your HIV status with your primary healthcare providers such as dentists, general practitioners (GPs) and pharmacists to ensure you get the best medical care. It is important for your GP to be aware of your status in order to prevent the risk of your GP unknowingly prescribing medications which may interfere with your HIV treatment.
Currently, there is no specific law in Ireland which states that a person must share his or her positive HIV status with anyone; this includes to employers, medical professionals, and sexual partners. There are no specific HIV laws that criminalise the transmission of HIV, that is, which makes it a criminal offense to transmit HIV to a person. However, existing laws, under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997 (such as ‘Endangerment’ or ‘Causing serious harm’) can and have been used.
- When a person intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of a person becoming HIV positive (regardless of whether that person acquires HIV).
- When a person who is HIV positive intentionally or recklessly causes harm by transmitting HIV to another person.
Since HIV medication today has high efficacy, HIV transmission can only occur if a person was diagnosed HIV positive and did not have access to medication or was not taking their medication as prescribed, or if the person was HIV positive and unaware of his or her positive HIV status.
Case Studies in Ireland
In 2018, in the first case of its kind in Ireland, a man living with HIV was found guilty at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to two women. Both women tested HIV positive following a sexual relationship with the man in 2009 and 2010. The man was sentenced to ten years.
Please note the purpose of the information above is intended to provide general information only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal query in relation to HIV, we would advise you to consult a Solicitor.