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‘I knew I had something bad because no-one spoke about it’ – disclosure discovery: experiences of young people with perinatally acquired HIV in the UK

Dorrell, Judith and Katz, Jeanne (2013). ‘I knew I had something bad because no-one spoke about it’ – disclosure discovery: experiences of young people with perinatally acquired HIV in the UK. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 8(4) pp. 353–361.

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In the UK most young people born with HIV now reach adulthood. Although the clinical trajectory of HIV in this unique group is now more predictable, young peoples’ perspectives of growing up with HIV is less known.

This qualitative study explored the experiences of young people growing up with HIV and considered issues including: relationships, strategies for managing and living with HIV and perspectives on their futures. Twenty-eight young people (15-24 years old) with perinatally-acquired HIV were recruited from a specialist adolescent clinic. In depth interviews with participants were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using a grounded theory approach and assisted by Nvivo software.

Participants consistently identified the disclosure process of their HIV status as a crucial marker in their illness trajectory, defining their long term adjustment to their illness. Some participants discovered their HIV status by accident; of the others who were informed directly a third knew suffered from a serious condition and several reported knowing or guessing their HIV status before they were formally told.

Participants reveal that despite worrying about their health, they do not initiate discussion with adults. They perceive that partly due to their personal experiences, family members also refrain from discussing HIV with them. This silence results in young people being isolated whilst waiting for permission to talk. When they are told, they are warned to remain silent as HIV is perceived to be stigmatised.

Adults refraining from communicating about young peoples’ status at an appropriate time may model young peoples’ future disclosure to others. Greater awareness is required of the importance that professionals communicate directly with young people, who in turn may need support to facilitate communication with their families and peers. The perspective of young people is crucial to improve practice, develop services and reduce isolation for those growing up with HIV.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2013 Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1745-0136
Keywords: HIV/AIDS; perinatally infected; disclosure; secrecy; adolescents; young people; children
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
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Item ID: 36661
Depositing User: Jeanne Katz
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2013 10:16
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 10:13
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