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Parents disclosure of HIV to their children

Lee, Martha B; Rotheram-Borus, Mary Jane

Epidemiology & Social

Objective: Parents’ disclosure of their HIV serostatus to all of their children is described over time and the impact of disclosure is examined for their adolescent children.

Design: A representative cohort of parents living with HIV (n = 301) and their adolescent children (n = 395) was recruited and assessed repeatedly over 5 years.

Methods: Disclosures by parents living with HIV of their HIV status to their children were examined in three ways: (i) trends in disclosure over 5 years to all children; (ii) factors associated with parental disclosure; and (iii) the impact of disclosure on adolescent children (not younger children).

Results: Parents were more likely to disclose to older (75%) than to younger children (40%). Mothers were more likely to disclose earlier than fathers and they disclosed more often to their daughters than to their sons. Parents were more likely to disclose over time to children of all ages; disclosure did not vary according to parents’ ethnicity, socio-economic status, self-esteem, or mental health symptoms. Disclosure was significantly more common among parents with poor health, more stressful life events, larger social networks, and those who perceived their children experiencing more HIV-related stigma. Over time, poor health status and a self-destructive coping style were associated with higher rates of disclosure. Parental disclosure was significantly associated with more problem behaviors and negative family life events among their adolescent children.

Conclusion: Parental disclosure of HIV status is similar to disclosures by parents with other illnesses. Clinicians must assist patients to make individual decisions regarding disclosure.

From the AIDS Institute Center for HIV Identification, Prevention, and Treatment Service University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA.

Correspondence to M. Lee, Center for Community Health, 10920 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 350, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90024-1759, USA.

Received: 22 February 2002; revised: 24 June 2002: accepted: 29 July 2002.

Copyright © 2002 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.