Post-test adverse psychological effects and coping mechanisms amongst HIV self-tested individuals living in couples in urban Blantyre, Malawi

OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
TITLE AUTHOR(S): M.K.Kumwenda, E.L.Corbett, A.T.Choko, JChikovore, K.Kaswaswa, M.Mwapasa, R.Sambakunsi, T.J.Gutteberg, S.Gordon, A.Munthali, N.Desmond
DEPARTMENT: Public Health, Societies and Belonging (HSC)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 11253
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/15201

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Mandatory face-to-face counselling is necessary during HIV testing but difficult to implement within the context of HIV self-testing. We investigated adverse psychological effects and coping mechanisms following HIV-positive and HIV-discordant test results amongst selftested individuals living in couples in urban Blantyre, Malawi. Qualitative data from 35 in-depth interviews with self-tested individuals living in couples for more than 3 months were collected and analysed using thematic content analysis.Adverse psychological effects seemed to mostly occur among individuals learning for the first-time that they were HIV-positive or living in HIV-discordant relationship. Irrespective of test outcomes, women living in couples expressed difficulty making important decisions about the future of their relationships while men seemed to shoulder the emotional burden associated with feeling or being seen as responsible for introducing HIV into the relationship. Post-test psychosocial support and ascertained positive behaviour change of the perceived index partner allowed some couples to overcome adverse psychological effects linked to test results. Self-tested individuals living in couples may lack collective coping capability to collaboratively manage post-test adverse events after new HIV-positive or HIV-discordant results. Psychosocial support seemed to enable couples to foster both an individual and a collective ability to manage adverse psychological effects within the context of a couple. More research is needed to ascertain the magnitude of the deficiency of collective coping competency in couples following an HIV test.