Most HIV positive men do not always tell their casual shags that they are HIV positive. It can be difficult to find an appropriate time to disclose to potential sexual partners and, let’s face it, talking about HIV is usually a turn off. Some HIV negative men will choose not to have sex with men that they know to be HIV positive. However, by disclosing your HIV status to someone before you have sex with him, you are giving him the opportunity to make an informed choice.

Some people find that having a strategy or plan for disclosing to sexual partners can help them feel more prepared to deal with good and bad responses. A plan for disclosing could be as simple as saying that you’re HIV positive as soon as it is clear there is a sexual interest, or it could involve asking a series of questions about your partner’s sexual preferences and practices before introducing the topic of HIV status. A lot of HIV positive men who use websites such as Gaydar say that they’re positive when they’re online, before actually meeting up. If you talk about your HIV status to other people it’s likely that they’ll talk about their HIV status with you. However you decide to proceed, it is still important to consider your reasons for telling your sexual partner. Your reason for discussing your HIV status could depend on the kind of relationship you want to have or the kind of sex you want to have. If the risk of HIV transmission is very low, you may feel that there is no reason to tell someone, or you may feel more comfortable disclosing so that informed decisions about sex can be made together.

"A friend of mind was aghast when I said I didn't necessarily tell casual sexual partners I was HIV positive. 'But surely, they have a right to know?' she said. I asked her 'Why? If you are both going to have safer sex, why should it have to be an issue?' If you're minimising the risk, must you bring HIV and all its attendant baggage into every intimate encounter you have?" (Daniel, 38)

Another thing to think about is that a shag may ask you directly about your HIV status. If he does then you will have to decide what to say, so it’s a good idea to think about this beforehand and decide what your strategy will be.

If you are going to tell a shag that you have HIV, it’s probably better to get it out of the way early. This way you’ll know whether he will still be up for sex from the start. If he won’t want to have sex with you then it’s probably better to know before you’ve spent all night with him and even got him home. If you wait to tell him until after you’ve had sex he may be angry or upset that you didn’t tell him first. He may also be worried that you may have passed on HIV to him.

If you do not disclose your status to a shag before you have sex, or hide the fact that you have HIV if he asks you, it is possible that you could be prosecuted if he became infected. In the UK there have been criminal prosecutions of people for ‘recklessly’ passing HIV on to their sexual partners. You can read more about this in the section on HIV Transmission and the Law.

You may find yourself in a situation where you start to develop a relationship with a casual partner that you haven’t disclosed to. Informing him may be difficult for you to do, as you’ll also be telling him that you have already had sex with him without him knowing you have HIV. If you used condoms and were as safe as you could be with him then explaining this to him may help him to see that you were doing what you could to protect him. However the longer you leave it the more difficult you may find it to tell him. If you want the relationship to last, then it’s probably better to tell him as soon as you feel able.

"Sometimes when I meet someone, like in a sauna, where frankly I don't always know the guy's name before we fuck, it's impossible to sit him down first and tell him I'm HIV positive without totally killing the mood. So I'm not saying I've always disclosed, but generally speaking I prefer to make sure a guy knows I'm HIV positive as soon as possible, and there's a number of reasons why. Firstly, if a guy would prefer not to have sex with someone he knows is HIV positive, I would prefer that he knows I'm HIV positive and for us not to have sex, because I totally respect his choice. In fact when I tell a guy that I'm HIV positive, I make it as clear as I can that I would totally understand if it changes the way he feels. You could say that if your partner really cares about your status he will ask, and that you can tell him about it if and when he does, and technically you'd be right. However, I think that that argument uses a potential failure in your partner as an excuse to do something that you know he might not want you to. I also prefer to disclose my status as early as possible to someone in whom I'm interested, because then at no point do I have to worry about losing something I have started to like very much, either because I'm HIV positive or because I have kept that fact to myself." (Paul, 33)

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