Navigating life with hiv as an older adult in south african communities: A phenomenological study

Naomi Hlongwane, Sphiwe Madiba*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The study explored how older adults experience an HIV diagnosis, deal with issues of stigma and disclosure, and navigate the healthcare system. Descriptive phenomenology was used to collect data from 20 older adults receiving antiretroviral treatment in health facilities in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Data analysis was inductive and followed the thematic approach. After diagnosis with HIV, the older adults experienced shock and disbelief, internalized their new reality of being HIV-positive, and found it difficult to disclose their HIV status. Stigma was embedded in their patterns of disclosure, and they chose not to disclose in order to manage stigma, protect their status, and maintain their privacy. Moreover, nondisclosure allowed them to achieve some normality in their lives without the fear of rejection. The older adults adopted various survival skills that aided them to accept their HIV status. Self-acceptance was important for the older adults who did not want to feel cheated out of life by the HIV diagnosis. The positive supportive attitudes of the healthcare professionals provided the much-needed support network for the older adults immediately after they had received their HIV test results. This was instrumental in their acceptance of their HIV status, their adherence to clinic visits, and their ability to live a healthy, positive life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5797
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2020


  • Acceptance
  • Disclosure
  • Navigating health care
  • Older HIV-positive adults
  • Phenomenology
  • South Africa
  • Stigma


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