Living with HIV, disclosure patterns and partnerships a decade after the introduction of HIV programmes in rural South Africa

OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
TITLE AUTHOR(S): N.B.Mkwanazi, T.J.Rochat, R.M.Bland
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 9031
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/1611

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Prevention of mother-to-child Transmission and HIV Treatment programmes were scaled-up in resource-constrained settings over a decade ago, but there is still much to be understood about women's experiences of living with HIV and their HIV disclosure patterns. This qualitative study explored women's experiences of living with HIV, 6-10 years after being diagnosed during pregnancy. The area has high HIV prevalence, and an established HIV treatment programme. Participants were enrolled in a larger intervention, Amagugu, that supported women (n = 281) to disclose their HIV status to their children. Post-intervention we conducted individual in-depth interviews with 20 randomly selected women, stratified by clinic catchment area, from the total sample. Interviews were entered into ATLAS.ti computer software for coding. Most women were living with their current sexual partner and half were still in a relationship with the child's biological father. Household exposure to HIV was high with the majority of women knowing at least one other HIV-infected adult in their household. Eighteen women had disclosed their HIV status to another person; nine had disclosed to their current partner first. Two main themes were identified in the analyses: living with HIV and the normalisation of HIV treatment at a family level; and the complexity of love relationships, in particular in long-term partnerships. A decade on, most women were living positively with HIV, accessing care, and reported experiencing little stigma. However, as HIV became normalised new challenges arose including concerns about access to quality care, and the need for family-centred care. Women's sexual choices and relationships were intertwined with feelings of love, loyalty and trust and the important supportive role played by partners and families was acknowledged, however, some aspects of living with HIV presented challenges including continuing to practise safe sex several years after HIV diagnosis.