Parental HIV disclosure in Burkina Faso: Experiences and challenges in the era of HAART
Increasingly parents living with HIV will have to confront the dilemmas of concealing their lifelong treatment or disclosing to their children exposed to their daily treatment practices. However, limited data are available regarding parental HIV disclosure to children in Burkina Faso. Do parents on antiretroviral therapy disclose their HIV status to their children? What drives them? How do they proceed and how do children respond? We conducted in-depth interviews with 63 parents of children aged seven and above where the parents had been in treatment for more than 3 years in two major cities of Burkina Faso. Interviews addressed parental disclosure and the children’s role in their parents’ treatment. The rate of parental HIV status disclosure is as high as that of non-disclosure. Factors associated with parental disclosure include female sex, parent’s older age, parent’s marital history and number of children. After adjustment, it appears that the only factor remaining associated with parental disclosure was the female gender of the parent. In most of the cases, children suspected, and among non-disclosers many believed their children already knew without formal disclosure. Age of the children and history of divorce or widowhood were associated with parental disclosure. Most parents believed children do not have the necessary emotional skills to understand or that they cannot keep a secret. However, parents who disclosed to their children did not experience blame nor was their secret revealed. Rather, children became treatment supporters. Challenges to parental HIV disclosure to children are neither essential nor specific since disclosure to adults is already difficult because of perceived risk of public disclosure and subsequent stigma. However, whether aware or not of their parents’ HIV-positive status, children contribute positively to the care of parents living with HIV. Perceptions about children’s vulnerability and will to protect them against stigma lead parents to delay disclosure and not to overwhelm them with their experience of living with HIV. Finally, without institutional counselling support, disclosure to children remains a challenge for both parents and children, which suggests a need for rethinking of current counselling practices.
Keywords: : HIV, parental disclosure, children, care and support, counselling, Burkina Faso