The Consequences of Non-Disclosure of HIV+ Status

An HIV+ diagnosis may come as a shock, and learning to live with the virus can take some adjustment. In addition to healthcare protocols and precautions, you will also face the challenge of talking about your diagnosis. While disclosing that you are HIV+ may be uncomfortable, it is necessary in order to get the best possible healthcare and protect your sexual partner(s) from possible exposure.

Who You Need to Tell and Why

HIV is a communicable disease and one for which health outcomes are significantly improved by early diagnosis and early treatment. In order to get the treatment you need to repress the viral load and maintain your overall health, we recommend you always disclose your HIV status to all healthcare providers. Even doctors you do not see for HIV-related issues or services, like your dentist or eye doctor, may, on occasion, need to prescribe drugs, and knowing about potential drug interactions is crucial. They may also need to perform procedures for which additional precautions may need to be exercised to prevent opportunistic infection.

Because HIV is transmitted by sexual contact and blood, you need to disclose HIV+ status to your sexual partner(s) and those with whom you may have shared needles. If you fear violence from your partner(s), there are services you may use that inform your partner(s) of their need to get tested while protecting your confidentiality.

Legal Consequences of Non-Disclosure

New Mexico is one of a minority of states that does not have laws mandating HIV+ status disclosure to sexual partners. So, the choice to not tell a partner does not carry criminal consequences in the event that your partner contracts the virus at this time. However, that could change.

Nearly every state has legislation mandating reporting of a communicable disease to an appropriate health authority and/or those most at risk of contracting the disease because of contact with the individual with positive disease or carrier status. While LGBTQ+ advocacy groups are actively lobbying to remove HIV-specific language from such legislation, the mandate to disclose having a communicable disease (which still includes HIV) itself is not disputed. With other communicable diseases on the rise (such as the plague), our state may revise laws pertaining to disease reporting so that individuals bear a heavier legal responsibility for disclosure of disease status to sexual partners.

While there may be no criminal penalties for non-disclosure of HIV+ status, individuals who knowingly put others at risk by not disclosing their status may face civil lawsuits and penalties.

If you would like more information about HIV status, mandatory reporting guidelines and consequences of non-disclosure, please contact UNM Truman Health Services.