How do I support my friend who has HIV?

If a friend has shared with you that they have HIV, you might be wondering how you can be a good friend in this situation.

Firstly, recognise that it may have been very hard for your friend to share this with you. Your friend trusted you with this information, and you want to honour that trust.

One way to do that is to respect their privacy and treat this information as confidential. Your friend’s HIV status is theirs, and only they have the right to decide who knows and how and when to tell them. If your friend wants your help in telling others, you can offer to help them. Otherwise, keep that information to yourself.

Let your friend know that you accept and support them, and that having HIV does not change anything about your friendship or the way that you feel about them. You can also let them know that you’re always available to listen if they need someone to talk to.

Many people find it hard to share their HIV status, even with a close friend. Often, the fear of how others might react is the main reason. So, it’s important to think about how to respond in a way that is helpful and supportive if a friend does tell you they have HIV.

DO say:

  • “I appreciate you telling me that.”
  • “You’re not alone.”
  • “I am here for you.”
  • “This must be scary for you.”
  • “Have you started treatment yet?”
  • “Is there anything I can do to be a good friend right now?”

DON’T say:

  • “How long do you have to live?”
  • “How did you get it?” 
  • “Who gave it to you?”
  • “I hope I don’t get it from you!”

It is also important not to overwhelm your friend with questions. Focus on listening. They may be okay to answer questions eventually, but your priority as a friend should be to make them feel safe and comfortable, and to let them know that you care about them and want to support them.

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