Background. HIV disclosure is a challenging process for parents and healthcare professionals. The majority of HIV-infected persons live in Sub-Saharan Africa where HIV disclosure guidelines for a parent's and a child's illness are nonexistent. While there are two theoretical models of HIV disclosure, their utility in explaining disclosure in African cultures is largely unknown.
Methods. This qualitative phenomenological study was conducted in Kenya to describe the lived experiences of HIV-positive parents and their children during the disclosure process. Thirty four participants consisting of 16 HIV-positive parents, 7 HIV-positive children, 5 HIV-negative children, and 6 healthcare professionals were engaged in in-depth, semistructured interviews. Interview data were analyzed using the modified Van Kaam method.
Results. HIV disclosure is a complex process involving factors such as a parent's and child's state of health, ART consumption, stigma/discrimination, and sexuality concerns. Parents take years to prepare for and perform disclosure of theirs and/or their children's illnesses to their infected and noninfected children. They perform disclosure when they feel ready in stages, based on the birth order of their children, the perception of “the right time,” the child's understanding and maturity level, and whose illness(es) they intend to disclose at the time of disclosure.
Conclusion. HIV disclosure is challenging and each disclosure session performed is planned and geared to the particular child receiving disclosure. Parents and healthcare professionals are challenged by disclosure and can benefit from creation of HIV disclosure guidelines accompanied by culturally sensitive manuals and training programs aimed at parents and healthcare professionals to ease the process of disclosure.