HIV Disclosure Laws

Updated March 23, 2017

For the most part, the decision of whether to disclose HIV status rests in the hands of the individual who is living with HIV. There are some circumstances in which it is legal for others to disclose this information, but this is only in very specific circumstances.


Health care providers and AIDS service organisation representatives must maintain confidentiality in all settings. In most cases, revealing the HIV status of an infected individual is a breach of confidentiality and can result in lawsuits or other legal proceedings.

Duty to Warn

A physician can warn a known sex partner of an infection, but may only do so if he believes it will prevent a new infection. Before the physician can do so, she must have a strong reason to believe that the infected individual is hiding his HIV status from his partner.

Wilful Exposure

Wilful exposure happens when someone knows she have HIV and does not disclose to sex partners and is not mindful of the possible transmission. Several states have passed laws to treat wilful exposure as a criminal offence.


Many states have laws in place to criminalise wilful exposure, and in the history of the disease, at least 300 people have been criminally prosecuted for knowingly infecting others. Depending on the state, the crime can be as severe as a manslaughter or attempted manslaughter charge.


Beyond sexual partners, HIV-infected individuals are not required to inform others of their HIV status. They do not have to tell family (other than a spouse or sexual partner), nor do they have to inform employers, coworkers or friends.

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About the Author

Born in West Virginia, Jack Gerard now lives in Kentucky. A writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience, he has written both articles and poetry for publication in magazines and online. A former nationally ranked sport fencer, Gerard also spent several years as a fencing coach and trainer.