If a friend or partner tells you that they have HIV, you might be unsure how to respond. But you don’t need to know all of the scientific terminology and latest data on HIV to offer comfort and support. Depending on the specific situation and tone, here are five things that you might consider saying when someone tells you their HIV status.
1. “Thank you for letting me know!”
If someone discloses their status to you, it’s a sign that they trust you, so do your best to be respectful and supportive in return. If you have questions, ask them how you can get informed about HIV. A small gesture to learn more will show that you care.
2. “It’s always good to know your status.”
Knowing your HIV status is an important part of taking care of your overall health. Offer the person encouragement for taking that critical first step. Sometimes a person may confide in you about their status in hopes you will feel comfortable enough to do the same. Feel free to share your status or the date of your last test.
3. “How can I help you stay healthy?”
Science has proven that people with HIV who take their medication as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting the virus to their sexual partners. The fact is that people with HIV who are in treatment not only help themselves stay healthy, but also protect their partners. Let them know that treatment can be as simple as taking one pill every day, and encourage them to take charge of their health.
4. “Is there anything I can do?”
If someone has been recently diagnosed, they might be feeling overwhelmed or confused. Tell them that they can reach out to you for support. Offer to accompany them to appointments or support groups if they are interested.
5. “I’m glad that you feel comfortable telling me about your status.”
Remind them that they are still the same person to you, and that an individual is not defined by his or her HIV status. Continue to treat them as you normally would in private and public, and remind them that you value their trust and will respect their privacy.