If, when and how to tell: a qualitative study of HIV disclosure among young women in Zimbabwe


In the Shona culture of Zimbabwe, a high regard for childbearing contributes to strong pressures on women to have children. For young women living with HIV, consequently, disclosure of HIV status can be a central strategy to garner support for controlling fertility. This paper reports findings from qualitative interviews with 28 young women aged 16–20 living with HIV in urban Zimbabwe and discusses how these findings can contribute to better policies and programs for this population. Regardless of their current relationship status, interview participants described disclosure as a turning point in romantic partnerships, recounting stressful experiences with major ramifications such as abuse and abandonment on the one hand, and support and love on the other. All but one participant had been in a committed relationship, and most had disclosed to a previous or current partner, with about half of disclosure experiences resulting in adverse reactions. Findings suggest that sexual and reproductive health services must do more to help young women living with HIV negotiate the complexities of disclosure in the context of achieving desired fertility.

Published in: Reproductive Health Matters, Volume 20, Issue 39, Supplement, Pages 18-26, November 2012.

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Sophia Zamudio-Haas
Imelda Mudekunye-Mahaka
Barrot H. Lambdin
Barrot H. Lambdin
Publication date: 
November 22, 2012
Publication type: 
Journal Article