Challenges in the process of HIV/AIDS disclosure: Perspectives of HIV positive students in a South African university.
Pillay, Gellinda Anna-Alicia Patience.
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From the moment individuals are diagnosed as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive, they are overwhelmed with various emotions. People living with HIV who have recently been diagnosed will usually search for comfort as they adapt to this unsettling life change. In addition, HIV-positive students may feel alienated because they live away from their source of support. This study explored HIV-positive students’ lived experiences of HIV disclosure. University students fall within the age group of South African youths who are most likely affected by HIV. Because of the social dynamics of university life, such as living away from home, it is of interest to study the disclosure patterns of these students. The objective of this study was to understand HIV-positive students’ process of disclosure, focusing on both the challenges and the facilitators of disclosure. A qualitative study was conducted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with five participants – two men and three women – who were on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and who were recruited through the campus health clinic. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. The findings showed that the negative consequences of disclosure were that the participants were subjected to judgemental responses after disclosing; a positive consequence of disclosure was having access to support. The participants were afraid to disclose to friends and roommates at university because they feared the judgemental attitudes and stigma. However, the participants chose to disclose to close family members, owing to the support they would receive from them. The university was also seen as having a good support system for HIV-positive students. In this regard, the participants suggested that interventions geared at social support and the dissemination of information should be employed at the university.