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“Managing identities” and parental disclosure of HIV sero-status in Zimbabwe

Nelson Muparamoto
Manase Kudzai Chiweshe


Drawing from a small sample of HIV infected respondents, this paper examines parents’ perceptions on the decision to disclose or not to disclose their HIV  sero-status to their children. It explores how parents control the information in the interactional ritual with their children. The paper uses Goffman’s concept of dramaturgy to analyse how parents manage and control disclosure within a context where HIV and AIDS is associated with stigma. Disclosure is a strategic encounter in which the interactants (parents) manage to create a desired identity or spoil an identity. Qualitative research incorporating focus group discussions and in-depth interviews was used to examine the perceptions of parents who are HIV positive on disclosure of their status to their children. Such a methodological approach allows for a nuanced understanding of the context in which decision to disclose status happens. The study findings show that in a social context involving parents and children as actors there are complex expectations which affect parental disclosure of HIV sero-status to their children. The desire to manage an expected identity militated or enabled disclosure in a parental relationship.

Keywords: interactants, identity, disclosure, ritual, parents, children, spoiled identity