A NEW online resource has been launched to support people living with HIV who are planning to disclose their status, a process that is often plagued with stigma.

The Disclosure Project is a site that allows individuals to share their personal stories of HIV disclosure as a way to help others intending to do the same.

[showads ad=MREC]Living Positive Victoria developed the project in partnership with ACON, The Institute of Many (TIM) and the Victorian AIDS Council (VAC).

Living Positive Victoria chief executive Brent Allan said disclosure was a key issue that kept coming up in the organisation’s programs for people newly-diagnosed with HIV, prompting them to develop the website.

“Facilitators were saying again and again that disclosure was coming up as a topic of conversation,” he told the Star Observer.

“We thought to ourselves — the participants are only hearing the experiences of the people in these workshops, so we have to expand the dialogue of exposure.”

Allan said the site would feature both positive and negative experiences, so people will be able to see what does and doesn’t work.

“Sometimes the best learning we have is when we make mistakes,” he said.

“For instance, in terms of telling people you’re HIV positive someone might say ‘here’s what I did and it didn’t work’.

“And it isn’t just about HIV-positive people telling their stories, but also HIV-negative people talking about how someone’s disclosure worked for them.”

The site is a multimedia platform, with the stories uploaded taking various forms such as video, audio, and even screen shots from applications like Grindr and Scruff.

TIM co-founder Nic Holas believes this project will help capture the many different experiences people have when it comes to disclosing their status.

“For HIV-positive people disclosure remains an incredibly difficult part of living with HIV because of the stigma around it,” he told the Star Observer.

“At TIM the most common questions seem to be around the lead-up to disclosure. Men and women talk about seeing someone, after going on a couple of dates, and getting to the point where they feel the need to disclose.

“But they’re so worried about it because of previous experiences… or else they’ve heard other people that have had awful experiences.”

Diane Nyoni, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2011, believes disclosure is never easy despite how comfortable a person may be with their status.

“For me I’ve chosen to be transparent, but in accepting that you also accept that there will be bad experiences,” she told the Star Observer.

“Last year I was called the ‘AIDS bitch’ by a neighbour publicly shouting in the street. I decided to deal with that in humour, and I said ‘she’s a bit slow, she just found out.

“A tool like the Disclosure Project is fantastic in that it allows peers to support other peers and share their experiences.

“Even if someone doesn’t want to speak to anyone about it they can read and identify with those stories.”

The new site also aims to assist people living with HIV to identify the cause of any fear, apprehension, hesitation or shame about disclosing.

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