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Should You Hide Your RX From Family and Friends?

Should You Hide Your RX From Family and Friends?


I want to finally go on meds, but I haven’t told anyone I’m HIV-positive. How do I keep the prescription bottles hidden? Should I lie and say I have something else? — Maria

First, I want to congratulate you on the decision to get your treatment started. That’s taking good care of yourself. But it sounds like this decision has also brought up concerns about disclosing your HIV status. Do know, you are in control of whom you choose to tell and when you choose to tell them. It’s your decision.

If you are living with roommates or family members and aren’t ready to disclose, then it is your choice to keep your medications in a place where they won’t be discovered. If you are living alone and you are concerned that someone might check out your medicine cabinet, this is another reason to keep your medications in a more private place. Do what is going to help you to feel comfortable. Again, take care of yourself.

But I also have to say that I am sensing a lot of shame in your question. That tells me you may be viewing your HIV status as something that others might judge you for, and something that you should keep a secret. And the “but” in your question (“but I haven’t told anyone”) makes me wonder if you might be delaying your treatment for fear that others will find out.

You know the people in your life, and it sounds like you have given some thought to how they might react to learning your positive status. And based on that, you may be feeling this is something you need to keep to yourself. This raises a question for me: Are you talking to anyone about your HIV status?

Getting emotional support is an important part of your self-care. Having a safe place to talk about what’s going on in your life, your concerns, your fears — as well as the joys — and to give you encouragement when you need it. Do you have anyone in your life you can look to for support? Also, is it possible that some of the people in your life might surprise you? I am wondering if you might be doing some mind reading and assuming you might be rejected. You won’t know if you don’t give them a chance.

If you haven’t started taking the medication, I hope you will get your treatment on track right away. Designate yourself the decision-maker in terms of how you want to store your medication. You’re in charge. You’re also in charge of when you disclose your status and whom you disclose to. But get support. Think about the people in your life who you can trust to be part of your support network. You might also look into HIV support groups in your area, or talking one-on-one to a counselor (many offer sliding scale fees for lower incomes if money is an issue). Get connected. Don’t go through this alone!

Mental health editor Gary McClain, Ph.D., is a recognized expert in understanding the emotional reactions to getting diagnosed with HIV. He’s the coauthor of several books, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Breaking Bad Habits and Empowering Your Life with Joy. Find him at

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