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#AskTyler: I'm Undetectable. Do I Have to Disclose to a Hook-Up?

#AskTyler: I'm Undetectable. Do I Have to Disclose to a Hook-Up?


For some people, the answer depends on whether you're asking from a legal standpoint or a moral one.

“I am undetectable, so do I still have tell someone I’m HIV-positive if it is just a hook-up?”— Leo from Texas

Talk about a controversial topic. On one hand, having an undetectable viral load means that it would be virtually impossible for you to transmit the virus. Disclosing your status even when there is no threat of your hook-up contracting the virus may still be ideal, but not a moral imperative. This answer may alarm some people, but in regard to the transactional nature of hook-ups, it is the truth. If he didn’t ask, you didn’t tell, and a condom was involved, you hardly deserve to feel bad about doing something that did not put him at any risk. As far as what is right and wrong, the only thing that matters is that you don’t spread the virus.

On the other hand, there is a general consensus that disclosing your status is the right thing to do. And there are some very real legal consequences that can result from a hook-up scorned. People are funny about HIV, and if a one-night stand finds out about your status after the fact, it has the potential to cause you some unnecessary grief and possibly even some potentially serious legal ramifications. It doesn’t matter whether your hook-up asked about your status or not, the law still unfairly places the bulk of the responsibility on your shoulders.  

The question of whether you have to disclose your status isn’t so much about what is fundamentally right or wrong. If you do have an undetectable viral load and he never inquires, your moral character will remain intact. But you might want to look at the issue of sex and disclosure from a different angle.

Disclosing your HIV-positive status is your opportunity to protect yourself. It is your opportunity to make sure you never have any second thoughts or lingering regrets after the sexual transaction is over. It is also your chance to find out if he is the type of guy who would have a visceral reaction to your status. If he is, then it is in your best interests to steer clear of his penis and avoid the headache. It’s not worth it. Watch some porn, help yourself, and call it a night.

Here is another little tip. If you are arranging your sexual encounter on a hook-up app, and chances are high that you are, disclosing on the app is the safest way to protect yourself. You might think it is a little impersonal, but let’s face it: you aren’t on Grindr to find a husband anyways. Disclosing on the app protects you legally in some jurisdictions because it's proof the person you're having sex with knows you have HIV.

You do not have a moral obligation to disclose your status if there is no risk of transmission and he never asked. You do, however, have a tremendous legal interest in proving that you did disclose. It may not be right or fair, but it’s the reality of HIV criminalization laws today. Disclosing isn’t about placating his fears; it is about protecting your health and safety.



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