Disclosure of HIV infection

Sharing knowledge of a young person’s HIV status with them should be an incremental process that needs to take into account their cognitive skills and emotional maturity, as well as their caregiver’s views about and knowledge of HIV infection. Generally, this begins with education about the immune system and how certain viruses can damage the immune system, followed by a discussion around the role of medications to reduce HIV viral load in the blood and increase the number of white blood cells destroyed by HIV. By the time young people reach secondary school, they should be able to name the HIV virus, how it can be transmitted, and identify support people they can talk to. Disclosure should be done in an honest manner with a professional approach that nurtures the normalisation of HIV infection. Useful resources on approaching disclosure with children and adolescents are available from the World Health Organization and the United Kingdom-based Children’s HIV Association.