If your HIV test is positive, the clinic or other testing site will report the results to your state health department. They do this so that public health officials can monitor what’s happening with the HIV epidemic in your city and state. (It’s important for them to know this, because Federal and state funding for HIV/AIDS services is often targeted to areas where the epidemic is strongest.)
Your state health department will then remove all of your personal information (name, address, etc.) from your test results and send the information to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC is the Federal agency responsible for tracking national public health trends. CDC does not share this information with anyone else, including insurance companies. For more information, see CDC’s Questions about Privacy, Insurance, and Cost.
Many states and some cities have partner-notification laws—meaning that, if you test positive for HIV, you (or your healthcare provider) may be legally obligated to tell your sex or needle-sharing partner(s). In some states, if you are HIV-positive and don’t tell your partner(s), you can be charged with a crime. Some health departments require healthcare providers to report the name of your sex and needle-sharing partner(s) if they know that information—even if you refuse to report that information yourself.
Some states also have laws that require clinic staff to notify a “third party” if they know that person has a significant risk for exposure to HIV from a patient the staff member knows is infected with HIV. This is called duty to warn. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program requires that health departments receiving money from the Ryan White program show “good faith” efforts to notify the marriage partners of a patient with HIV/AIDS.
If you are serving time in a jail or prison, your HIV status may be disclosed legally under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Standard for Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens. State or local laws may also require that your HIV status be reported to public health authorities, parole officers spouses, or sexual partners.

If you are living with HIV/AIDS, you are protected against discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Under these laws, discrimination means that you are not allowed to participate in a service that is offered to others, or you are denied a benefit, because of your HIV disease.
For more information, see the Office of Civil Rights’ Civil Rights: HIV/AIDS.
Both Section 504 and the ADA prohibit discrimination against qualified persons, including those with HIV/AIDS. Section 504 prohibits health and human service providers or organizations that get Federal funds or assistance from discriminating against you because you are living with HIV/AIDS. The ADA also protects your family and friends from discrimination because of YOUR HIV status.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination by state and local government entities, even if they don’t get Federal funding. Examples of entities that may be covered by Section 504 and the ADA include hospitals, clinics, social services agencies, drug treatment centers, and nursing homes. Again, under these laws, discrimination means that you are not allowed to participate in a service that is offered to others, or you are denied a benefit, because of your HIV disease.
For more information, see OCR’s Your Rights Under Section 504 and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) also enforces the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which protects the privacy of your health information and gives you the right to review and make corrections to your medical records. For more information, see OCR’s Health Information Privacy, Civil Rights, or How to File a Complaint.
If you are a woman living with HIV/AIDS, you may face particular challenges around discrimination—but there are things you can do to protect yourself. For more information, see the Office on Women’s Health’s Women and HIV: Your Rights.

The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the workplace gets bigger each year. That’s because people between the ages of 20-44 are most affected by HIV/AIDS—and they also make up over 50% of our nation’s 143 million workers.
Thanks to advances in antiretroviral therapy (ART), with the proper care and treatment, people living with HIV can live healthy lives and continue to contribute their skills and talents to America’s labor force.
If you are living with HIV, it’s important that you know how HIV/AIDS laws affect you at work. Here are some of the most important ones:
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability. The ADA covers businesses that employ 15 or more people and applies to employment decisions at all stages. U.S. courts have ruled that, even if you have asymptomatic HIV, you are protected under this law.
The mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to save lives, prevent injuries, and protect the health of America’s workers. To accomplish this, Federal and state governments work in partnership with the more than 100 million working men and women and their 6.5 million employers who are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) applies to private-sector employers with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the work site. If you are eligible, you can take leave for serious medical conditions or to provide care for an immediate family member with a serious medical condition, including HIV/AIDS. You are entitled to a total of 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave during any 12-month period.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) addresses some of the barriers to healthcare you may face if you are living with HIV. If you have group health coverage, HIPAA protects you from discriminatory treatment by your insurance provider. HIPAA also makes it easier for small groups (such as businesses with a small number of employees) to get and keep health insurance coverage, and gives people who lose (or leave) their group health coverage new options for buying individual coverage.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (COBRA) allows employees to continue their health insurance coverage at their own expense for a period of time after their employment ends. For most employees, ceasing work for health reasons, the period of time to which benefits may be extended ranges from 18 to 36 months.

Preparing for Disclosure

Disclosure means telling someone that you are living with HIV (HIV+). Sharing your HIV status can help with the stresses of living with HIV. But whom to tell and how to tell them can be complicated and difficult decisions.

There is no one best way to tell someone. Similarly, there is no sure way to know how those you tell will react or whom they may choose to tell. To prepare, it may help to ask yourself a few questions:

Whom do I want to tell and why do I want them to know?
How much am I ready to share? How much are they ready to hear?
How will disclosing my HIV status affect me and how will it affect the people I tell?
Consider where you want the disclosure to take place. It could be at home, at a friend’s house, or in a health care setting so that support is readily available. The important thing is that you choose a place that is comfortable for you.

Disclosure and relationships

Disclosing your HIV status can be stressful. While you may receive love and support from some of the people you tell, others may not be as accepting. Try to find someone that can support you through this difficult process. If you have not told any family or close friends yet, turn to your health care provider, social worker, counselor, or AIDS service organization (ASO).

Disclosing your HIV status will also have an effect on the people you tell. People will react differently to the news. Your friends and family may immediately embrace you and accept your diagnosis. Others may react negatively or need some time to process what you have told them. They may be scared – for you or for themselves — and may need some information in addition to time to adjust.

Some people, especially sexual partners who may be afraid they have been infected, react with anger. If you feel threatened or unsafe, it is important that you get safe and stay safe. Call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-SAFE and check our info sheet on Domestic Violence.

Just like you, people you tell will need support. Try to leave them hotline numbers, brochures or books about HIV that they can look at later. Give them the addresses of websites that provide information (a good government site is at Also let them know who else is aware of your status, so that they can go to each other for support.

Who Needs to Know

You do not have to tell everyone that you are HIV+. However, it is important that you tell your current and past sexual partners and anyone you have shared needles with to inject drugs. This way they can be tested and seek medical attention if required. If you are afraid or embarrassed to tell them yourself, the health department in your area can notify your sexual or needle-sharing partners without even using your name.

You also need to tell your health care providers to ensure you receive appropriate care. Your health care provider may ask how you were infected to determine if are at risk for other diseases, such as hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Disclosure and Relationships

Serious Relationship

If you are in a serious relationship, telling your partner is one of the first things you will probably think about. Many turn to their partners for comfort and support. However, some people worry that they will lose their partner’s love when they disclose. It is normal to feel nervous, embarrassed, or even fearful of your partner’s reaction.

Since you and your partner most likely have a sexual relationship, you do need to let them know that they may have been exposed to HIV and should get tested. Also, it is now even more important to practice safer sex.

Disclosing your HIV status can put a strain on the best of relationships. It is important for you to think about when and how to disclose. However, keeping the information to yourself for too long is probably not a good idea. If you find it difficult to decide when and how to tell your partner, it may be helpful to get some professional counseling.

It is important to recognize that some partners react to HIV disclosure with anger and even violence. If you are worried that your partner may become violent, try the following to reduce the risk of violence:

Disclose in a semi-public place like a public park with many people around. Find a place that is private enough to have a conversation, but public enough to get help if you need it.
Consider disclosing with a third person present, like a friend or a health care provider
Meet only in public with that person until you feel safe
Avoid exposing others to HIV without warning them ahead of time. The risk of violence may be greater if a person feels you knowingly put them at risk or lied to them.

Women who are dating have to face the question of disclosure with each new relationship. Some women prefer to get the issue out into the open immediately. Others prefer to wait and see if the relationship is going to develop beyond casual dating.

Although many people know about safer sex and how HIV is transmitted, fear and stigma are still a reality. Your HIV status will prevent some from wanting to see you, while others will not be put off by the information.

In most cases, sharing your HIV status is a personal choice. However, in the case of sexual relationships, it can be a legal requirement. It is best if you disclose your status prior to having sex with anyone.

Not disclosing your HIV status in a sexual relationship can lead to criminal charges whether or not your partner becomes infected with HIV. In most states, the law requires that you disclose your HIV status before knowingly exposing or transmitting HIV to someone else. Penalties vary from state to state. In many states, you can be found guilty of a felony for not telling a sexual partner you are HIV+ before having intimate contact.

Who May Not Need to Know

People with disabilities, including HIV, are protected from job discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, you should think carefully before disclosing your HIV status at work. You do not have to tell your employer that you are HIV+. If you have not had any HIV-related symptoms or illnesses and are not on medications that are affecting your job performance, there is probably no need tell.

If HIV or your medications are interfering with your ability to work, it may be a good idea to privately disclose your status to your boss. You can ask for an adjustment in your schedule or workload so that you can continue to do your job. Because the law regards an HIV+ person as a disabled person, your employer is required to reasonably accommodate your needs if you are otherwise qualified to perform the essential duties of the job.

If you are planning to disclose at work for employee or benefits purposes (like reasonable accommodation, insurance, disability, or medical leave), contact an employee benefits counselor or an HIV or legal advocate before disclosing.

Whom you may want to tell

Women often choose to disclose their status to close friends and family members whom they trust. For many, telling those closest to them provides them with both emotional and practical support.

Some people decide to become more public and use their stories to advocate for others with the government or in the media. Others may disclose for educational purposes to neighbors, community and religious groups, schools, other HIV+ people, or healthcare providers. Many women find a sense of purpose and increased self-esteem by telling their story.

You may want to consider how much of your story you are ready to tell. Many people will ask you how you became infected. If you decide not to share that information, have a reply ready such as, “does it really matter?” or simply state that you are not ready to talk about that.

Disclosing to Children

For moms considering telling their children, it is important to ask yourself why you want to tell them:

Will they be angry if you keep a secret?
Do they suspect something?
Are you sick?
Children can react to the news of HIV in the family in many different ways. Older kids may be upset that you kept a secret from them. Younger children may just want to go back to their toys. Partial truths can be helpful when telling children. You may decide only to tell them as much as you consider appropriate for their age.

It is important to remember that kids need support, too. If you can, give them the name of another adult they can talk to, perhaps a family member or friend they can trust. Several books are available that deal with the issue of disclosure to children A good place to start is Also see our info sheet on Talking with Your Children about Your HIV Status.

Taking Care of Yourself

There are some good reasons to tell people that you have HIV:

Getting support from family and friends, at the time of diagnosis and in the future
Fostering a sense of closeness with friends and loved ones
Reducing the risk of HIV transmission to others
Not having to live with the stress of keeping HIV a secret
Ensuring that you get the most appropriate care and treatment from your health care providers
Feeling empowered from disclosing
In close relationships, studies show that living with a secret, such as HIV, can be more emotionally harmful than the rejection that could result from disclosure. Many women who have kept a secret for a long time feel a sense of relief after telling.

However, telling other people that you have HIV can also have downsides. It is important to think carefully about whom you tell. Remember that once you disclose, you cannot take it back. ASOs and health care clinics can offer resources to guide you through the disclosure process.


If you are a woman living with HIV/AIDS, you may face particular challenges around discrimination—but there are things you can do to protect yourself. For more information, see the Office on Women’s Health’s Women and HIV: Your Rights.