Updated 25 June 2014

Nokhwezi's disclosure tips

Before you disclose to anyone – even if that person is within the family – you have to accept your status, and be able to deal with the fact that you're now living with HIV.


Before you disclose to anyone – even if that person is within the family – you have to accept your status, and be able to deal with the fact that you're now living with HIV. You cannot disclose to someone else and expect them to accept your status if you yourself cannot yet accept it. Without this, you may also be more vulnerable to the reactions of others.

Photo by Samantha Reinders

Choose wisely when deciding to whom you will disclose first: think about those closest to you, and specifically those most willing and able to give you the support you need without being judgemental. Emotional support is much more important than financial support. You need to find someone who will help to make sure that you do not get depressed, or will help you through it if you do, since depression could cause your health to deteriorate.

Of course, you cannot be sure how a person will react, so you need to prepare yourself for any shock or emotional feelings that person may display. Remember, disclosure isn't just about you dealing with HIV, but also those around you adjusting to this change in their lives! Give your friends and family members a few days after you've disclosed to understand the situation. I know it was very sad for my mom to find out that I had HIV because no one expects that for their child. She tried hiding her feelings but then we cried about it, and she promised that she would take care of me and I promised that I would do my best to get better.

I lost so many friends after disclosing, but I decided to tell them personally rather than have them hear it from someone else. I have one good friend who's been supportive of me since I told him. Even when I was really down and would say "I'm going to die," he kept on saying, “No, no, no, you're strong, you'll be fine." He would give me a shoulder to cry on.

I know how hard it is to reveal your status, but I also know how important it was for me. If I had not disclosed, I don't think I would have lived this long. I would have carried the burden alone. Disclosure is important so that people around you can offer treatment support. They can remind you to take your tablets and to go for regular check-ups at your nearest health facility.

Read more:
My life with HIV
Nokhwezi on stigma and discrimination

Article reproduced courtesy of Equal Treatment – the HIV, TB and human rights magazine of the Treatment Action Campaign.


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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