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AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2005 Feb;19(2):100-9.

The process of disclosing HIV serostatus between HIV-positive mothers and their HIV-negative children.

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  • 1Wayne State University College of Nursing, Detroit, Michigan 48202, USA.


The current study explores the impact of HIV disease on mothers as they face the task of balancing their own physical and psychological needs with the needs of their families as well as the additional burden of deciding whether to disclose their HIV status to their children. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 35 women and 19 children 10-18 years of age. Mothers were interviewed about the experience of being an HIV-positive mother and issues regarding disclosure. Children were also interviewed about the experience of having a mother who is HIV-positive and issues regarding disclosure. The decision to disclose was dependent on the child's developmental level, the degree of the mother's illness, and in some cases this decision was taken from mothers when someone else disclosed their HIV status to their children. Positive aspects of disclosure from the mother child dyads included open, honest communication, and closer relationships between mothers and their children. Common negative themes emanating from the data included fear, uncertainty, forced secrecy for fear of being ostracized based on the stigma associated with the disease, behavioral changes in the children, and shifting responsibilities between the mother and the child. Findings of the study suggest that disclosure, and all it entails, remains a vital issue for mothers who are HIV-positive. In addition, the findings reflected that children and their mothers have very different perspectives regarding the process and the effects of disclosure of the mother's HIV status. Clinical implications and recommendations for further research are discussed.

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