Parenting the child with HIV in limited resource communities in South Africa: mothers with HIV’s emotional vulnerability and hope for the future

Malerato Moshoeshoe, Sphiwe Madiba*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: A diagnosis of HIV does not affect the well-being of mothers alone but also affects how they care for their children. The aim of this study was to explore how mothers who were diagnosed with HIV when pregnant or when their children became ill experience raising children living with HIV. The purpose was to understand how a diagnosis of HIV impacts mothering their children at different points on the mothering journey. Methods: Using descriptive phenomenological enquiry, interviews were conducted with 28 mothers recruited via purposeful sampling from clinics in health district in South Africa. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analysed following the thematic approach. Results: The mothers found mothering a child living with HIV stressful and associated with constant thoughts of death. The burden of mothering was increased for mothers who had to confront emotions of self-blame and guilt for unintentionally infecting the child. They used secrecy to protect their children from the social consequences of a diagnosis of HIV. The thought of living with HIV weighed on them every day and they expressed their experience of intense feelings of chronic worry, anxiety, and sadness. The findings identified high levels of stress, with the mothers expressing emotions suggestive of depression. With time, they accepted living with HIV and embraced motherhood, and became better mothers. Conclusion: The negative coping strategies used to deal with the child’s HIV diagnosis and high levels of stress and anxiety identified in the study underscore the need to address the psychosocial needs of mothers living with HIV. There is need to provide psychosocial support and continuous counselling for these mothers post diagnosis and upon a positive HIV diagnosis of the child to women enrolled in the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV programme.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen's Health
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • HIV-positive
  • South Africa
  • coping strategies
  • depressive symptoms
  • motherhood
  • psychosocial well-being
  • secrecy


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