Many people debate about whether they should reveal their HIV status to people at work—and may wonder about the potential benefits and the potential downsides, of disclosing. Here are a few things to consider if you are thinking about coming out to work colleagues as living with HIV.
Have you come to terms with your status yet?
How long have you been living with HIV—and are you comfortable enough with your status to be open about it? For some, the more they share, the more it feels like a weight is being taken off their shoulders. It can go in a wrong direction if you’re not in a good place with yourself—you’ve got to be ready to own your life and your status.
What’s your motivation to disclose your HIV status—and what benefits might disclosing bring?
Living with HIV—and being open about it—can become an important part of someone’s identity. It can feel impossible to sideline in relationships of any kind. Some people value being out about their HIV status with everyone in all settings. Others prefer not to share their HIV status as widely and may be more comfortable when they don’t feel like disclosure is necessary.
Social and emotional support may be one advantage to sharing your status. Reducing HIV stigma or encouraging a dialogue about what it means to live with HIV may be another motivation. The workplace might be more accommodating in terms of sick leave, time off for health appointments, less strenuous work etc…
How could it backfire?
There is always the possibility that revealing an HIV status at work may lead to insult, offence, changes in attitude and opportunities at work. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against you based on your HIV status. If you reveal your HIV status to your human resources department or your boss they can’t legally treat you differently because of it.
Disclosure is a huge issue and there is no one-size-fits-all in disclosure decisions. People can understandably be very cautious, concerned and anxious about disclosure in the workplace. They may find that they have a very supportive group of co-workers and supervisors and find that their workplace is actually supportive. People should give thoughtful, individual consideration to whether or not to disclose. Ultimately, it may make sense to disclose HIV status in some situations or with some co-workers, while not in others. n