Disclosure Complexities With Adolescents: A Shared Responsibility
WHO emphasized how providing HIV testing,counselling and care in isolation to adolescents is not enough. It should also include the facilitation of engagement in services with youth being tested to help them make decisions that are best for their health and well being.
“These linkages are especially important for adolescents. The ongoing developmental changes experienced by adolescents mean that not all of them have the ability to emotionally and psychologically cope with an HIV diagnosis or understand the need for additional services. This can be exacerbated by stigma, fear of rejection from family, friends or partners, concerns about the future and legal consequences”. (WHO 2014)
In relation to disclosure of one’s HIV status as an adolescent, WHO acknowledges how this process is ongoing, beginning at the time of diagnosis. WHO discusses the need for support during the disclosure process from peers, health providers and the community to help adolescents cope with negative backlash from disclosure. WHO also acknowledges how adolescents are a key population who are sensitive to confidentiality and the risks of legal consequences and abuse as a result of their often high risk behaviours and adolescent lifestyles. There is emphasis on choosing a safe environment for adolescents to disclose,relying on peers and bringing potential sex partners along for a visit to a health provider to educate the person who is being given the disclosure information, and to ease the process.
WHO discusses how placing too much emphasis on disclosing one’s HIV status or compulsory disclosure by health care providers for adolescents, could in fact, discourage adolescents from engaging in services. Too much emphasis on many topics with adolescents will not achieve the desired outcome and finding a balance is no easy feat. Role play was mentioned as a tool to practice disclosure and has been successful with adults.
If a group of consenting adolescents were provided a safe space to address disclosure complexities they could then take their chosen techniques or tools and begin to educate the public about the complexities involved in disclosing one’s HIV status. As adults struggle with the daunting task of disclosing their HIV status, adolescents who lack maturity and life experience, need to be empowered, given hope and included in the task of educating the public.Focusing on educating the public relieves the burden of responsibility on adolescents to find solutions, encourages adolescents to get tested, seek counseling, while inviting the public to share in the responsibility of care for youth and adolescents.
The HIV Disclosure Project