HIV serostatus disclosure and lived experiences of adolescents at the Transition Clinic of the Infectious Diseases Clinic in Kampala, Uganda: a qualitative study
Siu, Godfrey Etyang
Kennedy, Caitlin Elizabeth
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Most studies on HIV serostatus disclosure and adolescents focus on whether, how and when to disclose to adolescents their HIV diagnosis. Fewer studies have examined HIV serostatus disclosure by adolescents who know they are infected with HIV. This study presents qualitative data examining HIV serostatus and treatment disclosure practices and concerns of young people living with HIV in Uganda and the extent to which they are satisfied with current norms around HIV serostatus and treatment disclosure. We conducted two focus groups and interviewed 20 HIV-infected young people aged 15-23 receiving HIV care and treatment at the Transition Clinic in Kampala. Respondents perceived disclosure as a relationship encompassing both communication and self-conduct. Adolescents employed unique strategies to disclose their HIV status, notably joking to ‘‘test the waters’’ and emotionally prepare the other person before later disclosing in a more serious manner. Findings reinforce the idea that HIV disclosure is a process, not a one-time event. Interviewees anticipated both positive and negative outcomes of disclosure, including financial and emotional support, stigma, discrimination and rejection. They described a sense of violation of their autonomy when confidentiality was breached by third party disclosure, and also expressed fear of emotional distress for their loved ones. Although adolescents yearned to be in control of information about their HIV status and treatment, they have little space to call their own, and privacy is often compromised, especially because in traditional African settings, young people are considered to be dependents under the full responsibility of caregivers. Further exploration of disclosure outcomes and strategies specific to adolescents can help better tailor interventions towards youth. Antiretroviral therapy programmes should consider counselling for caretakers to appreciate and respect the privacy and disclosure concerns of their HIV-infected children.