Would you tell?
Ok, so I have a serious question for everyone. This is something that happened to me a while ago and I often look back upon it with very mixed and often uncomfortable feelings. I have only shared this with a select few and I am now wondering what you guys think – so here goes . . .
One night when a friend of mine (let’s call him Doug) wanted to chat with me about something he was going through I was all ears. We got to talking and Doug started to tell me about someone new that he was exploring. He had recently started dating a guy and it had started to become serious. Doug has been trying to find Mr. Right for ages and he thought that he might have found him. Of course I was happy for him. When he told me who it was, I was even happier because I knew the guy and thought that they would make a good match. But then Doug did something that caught me off guard. He asked me if I knew whether his new boy was HIV positive. I didn’t know what to say. Truthfully, I knew that Mr. Right was indeed HIV positive. But it certainly wasn’t my place to disclose. Or was it? I felt uncomfortable that Doug had even thought that it would be appropriate to ask me. I told him of course that I didn’t know and that I didn’t know why he didn’t ask Mr Right for himself. Since Doug seemed to think that the relationship had serious potential, I was also curious as to why Mr. Right hadn’t disclosed anyway. Knowing Doug for years I knew that he made it a habit of practicing safer-sex. But being a close friend, I also knew that Doug had a tendency to slip up every now and again (especially when he thought he had found Mr. Right). Having convinced Doug that I really didn’t know, we changed the subject.
I sat with this uncomfortably for weeks. It turned out that Doug and mister right broke up a while later and that in the process Doug did find out about Mr. Right’s status. I felt relieved that I was no longer carrying this weight. It’s been a few years now and Doug and I have lost touch. I still see Mr. Right every now and again. But when I look back at this experience I still have a lot of unconformability and unanswered questions. I happened to know Mr. Right and truly believe that if there was reason to disclose (significant risk) he would have. But when it comes to the ones we love, and want to protect what do we do? Although the ethical part of me thinks that I have done the right thing, the friend in me still feels a little unsure.
If I had disclosed (lets forget for a moment that as member of an AIDS Service Organization I would be breaching my oath of confidentiality something serious) would I be contributing to the difficult and stigmatizing reality that is making it difficult for Mr. Right to disclose in the first place? And if Mr. Right for some reason never disclosed and my friend became HIV positive, had I really done the right thing? I would really like to know what you guys have to say about any of this.