Do I have to tell others I have HIV/AIDS?

Unless you are going to have sex with someone or share needles, you may or may not want to tell others about your HIV status. The choice should always be yours and based on what is best for you as long as your actions are not endangering others.

Deciding on when to disclose your condition to others (friends, parents/family members, partner, managers, schoolmates, or co-workers) can be very stressful and can cause feelings of anxiety and even regret. “Disclosure” means sharing your personal information or “revealing”(in this case) your positive status.

Forms of HIV Stigma

Some reasons why people remain silent about their status are:

  • Cultural/societal taboos or intimidation
  • Stigma or discrimination
  • Bigotry (judgment connected to race or ethnic background and how you were infected)
  • Fear of being dismissed or mistreated by a medical practitioner

If you have questions about disclosure, read the Privacy and Disclosure for Youth Living with HIV or Hep C guide and the HIV Disclosure Guide for Youth to find out when and in what situations you need to disclose.

Telling your sexual partners

In Canada, you are required by law to disclose your HIV-positive status to a sexual partner before you have sex with them if there is a realistic possibility of HIV transmission. If you don’t share this information and there is a realistic possibility that you can infect a partner, you could be criminally charged.

If you’re unsure of what “a realistic possibility of HIV transmission” means, watch this video:

I need legal information - Where can I find that?

For legal questions on:

  • Disclosure
  • Privacy
  • Access to health care
  • Immigration law
  • Social assistance and employment-related questions

You can contact The HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO). HALCO offers free legal information.
Speak directly with a caseworker 416-340-7790 or toll-free 1-888-705-8889 to ask questions about your legal rights as a person living with HIV/AIDS.

Taking care of yourself

There are free services across Ontario to assist you. The Action Positive Guide and the Teresa Group Resources page, have a list of services across the province.

Ask your doctor or Community Health Centre (CHC) practitioner about referrals to free therapy services if you’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed. A lot of community health organizations will take “self-referrals” as well - this means you can request to see a counsellor or therapist without a doctor’s request if you’d like on-going support.

If you don't have a referral from a settlement agency, a mental health agency or hospital, you can visit our Where can I get mental health help page for a list of counselling services across Ontario.