Psychosocial Implications of HIV Serostatus Disclosure to Youth with Perinatally Acquired HIV

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Recommendations suggest that older children and adolescents perinatally infected with HIV (PHIV+) be informed of their HIV diagnosis; however, delayed disclosure is commonly reported. This study examined the prevalence and timing of HIV disclosure to PHIV+ adolescents and the associations between the timing of disclosure and psychological functioning and other behavioral outcomes. Recruitment took place at four medical centers in New York City between December 2003 and December 2008. This sample included data from 196 PHIV+ youth and their caregivers: 50% of youth were male, 58% African American, 42% Hispanic, with a mean age of 12.71 years. According to caregiver reports, 70% of the PHIV+ youth knew their HIV diagnosis. Youths who had been told were more likely to be older; youths with a Spanish-speaking Latino caregiver and whose caregivers had a grade school education were told at an older age. Youths who had been told their HIV status were significantly less anxious than those who had not been told; there were no other differences in psychological functioning. Youths who knew their status for longer reported higher intentions to self-disclose to potential sex partners. In multivariate analyses only demographic differences associated with timing of disclosure remained. In summary, PHIV+ youth who had been told their HIV status did not show an increase of psychological problems and were more likely to have intentions to self-disclose to sexual partners. Yet, almost one third was entering puberty without important information regarding their illness. Caregivers need support to address factors impeding HIV disclosure.

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AIDS Patient Care and STDs, v. 25, issue 4, p. 257-264