Originally Published In
HIV prevalence in Kenya remains steady at 5.6% for adults 15 years and older, and 0.9% among children aged below 14 years. Parents and children are known to practice unprotected sex, which has implications for continued HIV spread within the country. Additionally, due to increased accessibility of antiretroviral therapy, more HIV-positive persons are living longer. Therefore, the need for HIV disclosure of a parent’s and/or a child’s HIV status within the country will continue for years to come. We conducted a qualitative phenomenological study to understand the entire process of disclosure from the time of initial HIV diagnosis of an index person within an HIV-affected family, to the time of full disclosure of a parent’s and/or a child’s HIV status to one or more HIV-positive, negative, or untested children within these households. Participants were purposively selected and included 16 HIV-positive parents, seven HIV-positive children, six healthcare professionals (physician, clinical officer, psychologist, registered nurse, social worker, and a peer educator), and five HIV-negative children. All participants underwent an in-depth individualized semistructured interview that was digitally recorded. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed in NVivo 8 using the modified Van Kaam method. Six themes emerged from the data indicating that factors such as HIV testing, living with HIV, evolution of disclosure, questions, emotions, benefits, and consequences of disclosure interact with each other and either impede or facilitate the HIV disclosure process. Kenya currently does not have guidelines for HIV disclosure of a parent’s and/or a child’s HIV status. HIV disclosure is a process that may result in poor outcomes in both parents and children. Therefore, understanding how these factors affect the disclosure process is key to achieving optimal disclosure outcomes in both parents and children. To this end, we propose an HIV disclosure model incorporating these six themes that is geared at helping healthcare professionals provide routine, clinic-based, targeted, disclosure-related counseling/advice and services to HIV-positive parents and their HIV-positive, HIV-negative, and untested children during the HIV disclosure process. The model should help improve HIV disclosure levels within HIV-affected households. Future researchers should test the utility and viability of our HIV disclosure model in different settings and cultures.