As a current Acupuncture student needling on friends, family and in student clinic- the topic of disclosure has become president for me as a future licensed practitioner. Some may wonder why they think I have a right to touch on this topic, but I will say this now and I will say it again- HIV+ is not a certain population issue HIV+ is an everyone issue. Although I do need to highlight that in my day-to-day life I am fortunately not disclosing my status to others (I am also not blind to the fact I could contract it just like anyone else could), but I am definitely asking individuals to disclose to me if they are.
Disclosing ones status is a scary thing, the fear of judgment, devaluation, discrimination, even criminality are very real fears. It is because of this anxiety that some individuals choose to not disclose, to test anonymously, and only tell a select few if anyone. However, being HIV+ does not define you as a person. It does not mean that your blood is dirty, that you are less then, or lived some sinful lifestyle. Literally anyone can contract HIV, I’ll repeat that- LITERALLY. ANYONE. CAN. BECOME. HIV+. I have heard of so many girls who have NEVER even been tested for this on their blood work. I blame our sexual education classes or lack there of, that did not educate FEMALES that HIV is an EVERYONE issue. The HIV rates in Toronto are increasing (probably hook up culture could contribute/lack of protection/lack of testing/ lack of communication). In my opinion not getting testing is just as bad as not disclosing. If you as an individual are not checking in with all areas of your health, you are being negligible.
If I were to contract HIV (I tested negative a couple months ago) I would have to disclose this to all of my patients, legally as a practitioner I would need to tell anyone who walked into my treatment space. And I will expect the same, if anyone comes to be treated by me I will have the option to disclose privately on an electronic intake form only viewed by me. This is to protect me, my family, and all future people I needle.
It is only by normalizing the conversation about HIV+ (pos) can we start to fathom the idea that it is apart of everyone’s check-up. It’s so sad to still hear girls say ‘why would I need to test for HIV’- this only shows a lack of education. Furthermore, speaking about anyone’s status, sharing anyone’s status is also a criminal offense. Having more respect for those diagnosed, and also realizing that person could be you is where all of our mentalities should be at now. If someone discloses their status to you be kind, thank them for their trust, and help to encourage them to share with their other partners, friends, and family. Encourage medication adherence, listen when they’re having a hard time accepting this diagnosis. Most of all do not judge.