Roommates and H.I.V.

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March 29, 2009


"An Internet forum I read has been discussing living with people with H.I.V. As someone whose roommate is H.I.V. positive, I believe he need not tell housemates about his status. Many disagree, saying that household items ? a razor, a toothbrush ? could be used accidentally. I say the chance of infection in this way is too low to require disclosure. Agreed? NAME WITHHELD, NEW YORK

"An epidemoiologist I consulted...confirms that 'the risk of transmission from household contacts is very low.' Thus, as an ethical matter, I see no obligation to disclose H.I.V. status to housemates. While disclosing his H.I.V. status is not required, to do so would be admirable. The danger such a person presents to housemates is slight, but it would be good if they could act with knowledge of their circumstances. And by being forthcoming, your rommate helps combat the stereotype that casual contact with someone who has H.I.V. presents a health risk.

"...Concern about those stereotypes is not misplaced. Bebe Anderson, H.I.V. Project Director at Lambda Legal, told me: 'Although the stigma attached to H.I.V. has diminished, it has not vanished. We still see instances of discrimination.'"


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