Adolescents living with HIV and AIDS in Chiredzi district, Zimbabwe: experiences of disclosure, stigma, sexuality and social support to treatment adherence.
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The study explores experiences of disclosure, stigma, sexuality and social support to treatment adherence for HIV positive adolescents in Chiredzi district, Zimbabwe.This qualitative study adopts a multiple interpretive case study methodology to explore the intricacies of living with HIV as an adolescent. Twenty (n=22) adolescents aged between 13 and 19 were recruited to participate in this study while attending social support or when they came to collect their medication. Individual in-depth interviews were carried out asking adolescence about their personal romantic lives, experiences and difficulties they must face while living with HIV/AIDS. Findings revealed that adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) are confronted with stigma and discrimination while simultaneously grappling with emotional issues such as dealing with disclosure. Consequent to these challenges, adolescents (particularly males) adopt several coping mechanisms to deal with the difficulties and these include (but not limited to) non-disclosure of their seropositive status to their sexual partners thereby risking reinfection and exposing their partners to HIV. Social support was minimal. Non-disclosure of seropositive status contributed to poor adherence to or defaulting HIV medication. Further, findings further attest to the fact that adolescents refrain from disclosing their HIV status because they want to fit in with their peers and romantic partners. Presumably, this justifies why, while there has been a decline in the number of new HIV infections among all ages, there has been a significant escalation in HIV infection among the adolescent population, amid a high incidence of virological failure. Evidently, statistics will maintain an upward trajectory if proper measures are not implemented. The study concludes that a life-cycle approach to HIV prevention and management is crucial in responding to adolescent HIV/AIDS challenges because risks of HIV infection, the challenges of accessing services and the solutions to these challenges change at different stages of someone’s life. This scenario justifies the adoption and implementation of the principle of biomedical holistic approach in order to find suitable education programmes for the community, health workers and adolescents.