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      'What if they ask how I got it?' Dilemmas of disclosing parental HIV status and testing children for HIV in Uganda.

      Health Policy and Planning
      Adolescent, Adult, Child, Child, Preschool, Disclosure, Female, HIV Infections, diagnosis, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Male, Middle Aged, Parent-Child Relations, Parents, psychology, Uganda

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          Limited research has been conducted outside Western settings on how HIV-positive parents decide to test and disclose their own HIV status to children. We conducted a qualitative study in 2001 and 2005 to assess parent attitudes and current counselling policy and practice regarding child testing and parental disclosure in Uganda prior to the roll-out of antiretroviral therapy. Parent perspectives were obtained through extended in-depth interviews with 10 HIV-positive parents recruited from The AIDS Support Organization (TASO), Entebbe branch. Counselling policy and practice were explored through key informant interviews with directors and two counsellors from each of five Ugandan counselling institutions with national or regional coverage. Respondents had 51 children ranging from 4 to 36 years with a median age of 13. Five of 10 parents had disclosed their status to their children, usually to all, and four of these had tested one child for HIV. All those who tested any child had also disclosed their status to some or all of their children. Parents regularly worried that their children may be infected, but all preferred to wait for emergence of symptoms before considering HIV tests, citing fear of children's emotional reaction and lack of perceived benefits from knowing status. Counselling policy directors confirmed the absence of policy and training guidelines on the subject of parent-child disclosure. Counsellors reported improvising and giving inconsistent advice on this common concern of clients. Concerns over disclosure to children of parent's HIV status and testing children for HIV represent a major psychological burden for HIV-positive parents. Further research is needed, but current counselling practice could be improved now by adapting lessons learned from existing research.

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