We explored the extent to which perceived HIV-related stigma influences the disclosure and concealment of HIV status to family among adult patients hospitalised for AIDS-related illness, and described reports of negative responses and enacted stigma following disclosure. We conducted interviews with a purposeful sample of 28 adult patients in a rural South African hospital. Data analysis was deductive and inductive and followed the thematic approach. We found evidence of delayed HIV diagnosis and initiation of treatment. There was delayed and selective disclosure as well as concealment of the HIV-positive status. The disclosure was delayed for months or even years. During that time, there was active concealment of the HIV status to avoid stigma from family, friends, and community. When disclosure occurred, there was selective disclosure to close family members who would keep the secret and respond favorably. Although the participants disclosed mostly to close family, some of their post-disclosure experiences included incidents of enacted stigma and discrimination. The fear of perceived stigma and self-stigma influenced the active concealment of their HIV status from others. Continuous concealment of one’s HIV status and delayed disclosure limit the opportunities for support and care. There is a need to take into consideration the interaction between HIV-related stigma and disclosure to develop disclosure-counselling strategies in primary health care settings.
- HIV testing
- South Africa