Your environment

For the people in your social environment: how do you react to someone with HIV?
While all the rest of this booklet is meant for people who have HIV themselves, these two pages are meant foromgeving people who know someone who has HIV. How do you react to that person? Do you feel sorry for him or her? Do you think that someone with HIV is doomed to have a short life filled with disease and suffering? Do you think that HIV only occurs among gays and that anyone who has HIV must have had a wild sex life? Are you angry or disappointed because you have only recently been told? Or because you only heard about it indirectly? Are you afraid that you may have run a risk yourself? Or do you simply know very little about it?


Sometimes a person with HIV will decide to tell everyone in his or her social environment straight away. But is also happens that someone will only tell others much later. Because he or she was afraid to tell anyone earlier. Or was not ready to tell others. Or simply did not think it was necessary to tell. You might have the feeling that he or she did not trust you enough, but in fact it may have nothing to do with you. And why should someone say it anyway? People run absolutely no risk of getting HIV through normal, day-to-day contact, so in that sense you have nothing to worry about (see page 14). Many people experience few if any problems as a result of their HIV and tell it only to the people they feel closest to. A person might be reluctant to mention it because he or she has already received a negative reaction. Or because he or she has noticed that someone is keeping a distance or acting differently.

How do you relate to someone with HIV?
If you have just heard that someone has HIV and you don’t know any other people with HIV, it is quite normal that you are hesitant in the beginning. But why should you be any different around someone who has HIV? If someone has told about it him or herself, you can feel free to ask him or her questions. You will notice soon enough whether or not a person feels comfortable talking about it. Maybe you heard from others that someone has HIV. If that news was told with the permission of the person with HIV, you can feel free to talk about it with that person. But if you heard it from someone who had promised to keep it a secret, things get more complicated: Do you want to avoid making it known that someone else broke their promise to keep it a secret? Or do you want to bring up the subject openly and honestly with the person who has HIV?

Have you had sexual contact?
Nearly everyone who has HIV does everything they can to prevent passing it on to others. They do that by practising safe sex. The virus does not care whether or not you talk about your HIV. When you have sex with someone, it is always smart to assume that he or she might have HIV. There are thousands of people in the Netherlands who do not yet know that they have HIV, since they have not been tested since they became infected. So those people are not able to tell you whether or not they have HIV. Do you think you might have run a risk? Think carefully about everything that happened between you and your sex partner. (You can read about which sex techniques are safe and which are not on ) Have you run a real risk? Or was that just a feeling?


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