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Gays Have No Regrets

ssi and Dianne Bautista, extensively interviewed 76 HIV-positive gay men once a year in 1998, 1999 and 2000, and asked them to fill out lengthy questionnaires every six months. As part of these inquiries, researchers asked participants about their social networks, including friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances. During the final phase of the study, the men were asked whether each member of the social network they had previously revealed knew of their HIV status, whether they were told first-hand or heard second-hand, and whether the participant regretted that the person knew.

Overall, four out of five of the people in their social networks knew of their HIV status, and participants reported a very low incidence of regret. In fact, 63 percent reported no regret at all, and 75 percent reported feelings of regret of less than 7 percent of their social network. Out of a total of 1,397 social-network members who knew of the participants' HIV status, the participants regretted only 58 (4.2 percent) of those cases.

Interestingly, the highest incidences of regret were associated with disclosure to a parent or other family member, Serovich said. However, even then, out of 318 family members who knew, only 22 were associated with feelings of regret. "Disclosure may be difficult," Serovich said, "but the long-term consequences appear to be positive."

Serovich noted that it's possible that individuals would tell their HIV status only to "safe" people -- those who would most likely be supportive or at least neutral in their reaction. But there appeared to be no difference in feelings of regret on whether the members of the social network were told first-hand or heard second-hand. Also, it's possible that the benefits of disclosing the status -- from being relieved of the burden of living with a secret to experiencing assistance with support groups or medical care -- became apparent long after the disclosure took place.


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