Perceptions of school principals and experiences of disclosure of teachers living with HIV
The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions of school principals and the experiences of disclosure amongst teachers living with HIV. Due to HIV/AIDS-related stigma being prevalent in many societies today, many infected people would rather not disclose their status than deal with negative labelling and stereotyping. This study utilised narrative inquiry as a qualitative research design that is known to be a way of understanding experiences. Data was elicited via narrative interviews from a purposeful sample of ten principals and eight teachers living with HIV who were selected through network sampling from Gauteng public urban schools. The study found that stigma, fear of job loss and gossip deterred teachers from disclosing their HIV status. In some instances, they disclosed due to needing support, which principals provided in the form of counselling, and also to explain absenteeism. Although principals supported disclosure of teachers’ HIV status so that they could initiate care, confidentiality concerns showed that disclosure could further worsen stigma and the culture of discrimination and moral judgement that teachers living with HIV faced. The study recommends on-going development of caring relationships to deepen the understanding of the experiences of teachers living with HIV. Nondisclosure of HIV status stands in the way of building caring relationships between teachers and principals. There is still a need to create safe, supportive and empathetic environments in schools for teachers living with HIV.
Keywords: absenteeism, HIV/AIDS, HIV infection, HIV status, nondisclosure, stigma