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The impact of fear, secrecy, and stigma on parental disclosure of HIV status to children: a qualitative exploration with HIV positive parents attending an ART clinic in South Africa

Sphiwe Madiba
Global Journal of Health Science 2013, 5 (2): 49-61
South Africa is one of the sub Saharan countries where considerable progress in providing antiretroviral treatment (ART) has been made. The increased access to ART contributes to improvements in the prognosis of HIV and parents are more likely to raise their children than ever before. The study examined the social context influencing disclosure of parental HIV status to children from the perspectives of fathers and mothers accessing ART from an academic hospital in South Africa. Three focus group interviews were conducted with 26 non-disclosed biological parents of children aged between 7 and 18 years. Their ages ranged between 20-60 years and they cared for a total of 60 children. Parental decision not to disclose their HIV status to children was influenced by the fear of death and dying, the influence of television and media, stigma and discrimination. Parents delayed disclosure of their HIV status to children because children believed that AIDS kills. Parents also feared that the child may not be able to keep the parent's HIV status secret and might result in the family being subjected to stigma, discrimination, and isolation. Fear of stigma and discrimination were also responsible for the continuous efforts by parents to protect their HIV status from their children, family and neighbour's. Parents also delayed disclosure to children because they lacked disclosure skills and needed support for disclosure from health care providers. Healthcare providers are in a unique position to provide such support and guidance and assist parents to disclose and children to cope with parental HIV infection.


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