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Should I Tell My Family He’s HIV+?

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Hi Ellis:

About six months ago, I met the perfect guy. We’re totally committed and in love. Now we’re a the point where we’re ready to meet each other’s family. But there’s a problem: my boyfriend is HIV positive. I’m HIV negative and I’m afraid my family will not accept him if they know he’s HIV+.

My family took several years to accept the fact that I’m gay and I really fear how they’ll take this information. But I feel that withholding this information would be deceptive. What should I do?

~HIV Negative

Ask Ellis

HIV Negative:

This is a very sensitive situation, but at the end of the day, I believe you should make the decision as a couple, with your boyfriend having the final say as to if and when his HIV+ status is disclosed to your family.

Honestly, I would not disclose this information on the first meeting with your family. It’s a very personal bit of information that I believe may fall into the category of “TMI” if you were to disclose this when they’ve only just met. (I believe this is true of disclosing any medical information .) And sadly, individuals with HIV/AIDS are still subjected to a great deal of discrimination. I believe it’s best for your family to get to know your partner as a person before you discuss more serious issues such as this.

It’s understandable that your family might be concerned if they learn about your partner’s HIV positive status. But that said, HIV is no longer a death sentence. It’s considered a manageable condition and the risk of transmission is relatively low when appropriate precautions are taken. (For reference, the transmission rate amongst couples where both parties are aware is about 4%). So if you do opt to disclose this information, I would research some relevant facts and statistics that you could offer to help put your family at greater ease.

I would also examine the “pros” and the “cons” of disclosing this information to your family. What would be gained if you were to disclose this information? Would those gains justify the “cons,” such as the worry your family may experience or even a lack of acceptance that your partner could face?

It’s a sensitive topic, but I would not disclose this information straight away unless your partner feels very strongly about doing so. I would carefully weigh the pros and cons as you revisit the possibility down the road.

Ask Ellis is authored by LGBT advice columnist Ellis Keller. Click here to follow Ask Ellis on Facebook or submit your Ask Ellis question here.

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