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Title: “I have never talked to anyone to free my mind” – challenges surrounding status disclosure to adolescents contribute to their disengagement from HIV care: a qualitative study in western Kenya
Authors: Toromo, Judith J
Apondi, Edith
Nyandiko, Winstone M
Omollo, Mark
Bakari, Salim
Aluoch, Josephine
Kantor, Rami
Fortenberry, J Dennis
Wools‑Kaloustian, Kara
Elul, Batya
Vreeman, Rachel C
Enane, Leslie A
Keywords: Children
Continuity of patient care
Loss to follow-up
Issue Date: 4-Jun-2022
Publisher: BMC
Abstract: Introduction: Adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV, ages 10–19) experience complex barriers to care engagement. Challenges surrounding HIV status disclosure or non-disclosure to adolescents may contribute to adolescent disen‑ gagement from HIV care or non-adherence to ART. We performed a qualitative study to investigate the contribution of disclosure challenges to adolescent disengagement from HIV care. Methods: This was a qualitative study performed with disengaged ALHIV and their caregivers, and with healthcare workers (HCW) in the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program in western Kenya. Inclusion criteria for ALHIV were ≥1 visit within the 18months prior to data collection at one of two clinical sites and nonat‑ tendance ≥60 days following their last scheduled appointment. HCW were recruited from 10 clinics. Analysis was conducted by multiple independent coders, and narratives of disclosure and care disengagement were closely inter‑ rogated. Overarching themes were elucidated and summarized. Results: Interviews were conducted with 42 disengaged ALHIV, 32 caregivers, and 28 HCW. ALHIV were average age 17.0 (range 12.9–20.9), and 95% indicated awareness of their HIV diagnosis. Issues surrounding disclosure to ALHIV presented important barriers to HIV care engagement. Themes centered on delays in HIV status disclosure; hesitancy and reluctance among caregivers to disclose; struggles for adolescents to cope with feelings of having been deceived prior to full disclosure; pervasive HIV stigma internalized in school and community settings prior to disclosure; and inadequate and unstructured support after disclosure, including for adolescent mental health burdens and for adoles‑ cent-caregiver relationships and communication. Both HCW and caregivers described feeling inadequately prepared to optimally handle disclosure and to manage challenges that may arise after disclosure
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