A growing body of evidence[i] shows that HIV-positive children who are aware of their HIV status show greater adherence to treatment and an improved sense of well-being. Disclosing their HIV status to children can help ensure they live healthier, longer lives. The most recent WHO guidelines[ii] recommend that “Children of school age should be told their HIV positive status; younger children should be told their status incrementally … in preparation for full disclosure.”.
Yet despite this, many children living with HIV are not aware of their status. REPSSI (the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative) and partners have found that parents and caregivers struggle with telling their HIV-positive children about their status, and need additional support in doing so.
We must remember also that disclosure to children is a process which must be handled carefully. Health workers, counsellors, and parents require training and preparation, so that appropriate support is provided before, during, and after disclosure.
What can be done to assist parents and health care workers with disclosure to children? REPSSI has developed an initiative to improve physical, mental and social health for children, which can help answer to this question.