Keeping the secret: how HIV-positive children in Iringa, Tanzania, respond to the perceived need for silence and secrecy
Children who live with HIV may experience two aspects of disclosure: receiving disclosure and disclosing their status to others. The objective of this paper is to explore how HIV-positive children respond to: (1) the disclosure process; and (2) the perceived need for secrecy and silence concerning living with HIV. Thirteen HIV-positive children between the ages of 10 and 15 years were recruited through a HIV treatment centre in Iringa, Tanzania. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with the children and staff members. The children received disclosure about their status from healthcare workers rather than caregivers. Several children were asked by their caregivers to keep their status secret, some chose to do so themselves, largely to avoid experienced or perceived stigma from the community. Secrecy had an impact on potentially supportive relationships. Children tend to mimic adult responses, including partial disclosure and lying to others.