This is a question often debated among therapists in situations where an identifiable potential partner can be identified. For instance, here is a case where a husband’s sexual activities will be made a part of an action by an ex-wife where the husband may have (alleged by the ex-wife) infected her with the virus.
If you were a friend of this couple and you knew one of them had HIV, would you tell the other? If you were their marriage counselor? Recently, on the BoxTurtleBulletin blog, Daniel Gonzales said that HIV status should never be disclosed. His advice was in contrast to advice given on a gay dating website (although I don’t fully agree with the advice columnist either) Essentially, the question posed by the scenario was this: If a friend knows the HIV+ status of someone who might be a dating or sex partner, should the knowing friend warn the unsuspecting friend? The gay dating website published advice suggesting that the friend should be warned. Daniel said the unknowing friend should not have been told.
I disagree with Daniel. I would probably inform a friend about much less, if I knew it. And certainly in this case, I believe that such disclosures should be made where there is a clearly identified partner. I sometimes link to Box Turtle Bulletin when Jim and the gang discuss research since he often provides thoughtful commentary and analysis of research on gay related issues. However, I strongly disagree here. While I do not think that HIV status should always be disclosed, and I am sensitive to the issue of stigma, but, in a case like this, I cannot understand why privacy should trump safety. I do not believe it does.
UPDATE: Jim Burroway posted a lengthy response to the dust-up over the advice on his blog regarding HIV+ disclosure. I still disagree and left a comment about it there:
Bottom line, if I knew two friends who might hook up and I knew one of them had a disease that could be spread via intimate contact, I would tell my unsuspecting friend as well as the friend who had the condition that I was going to do so. Sure, I might have to deal with fall out; but I believe I might have to deal with a different kind of fall out if I say nothing.