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Disclosure in times of ART: A relational analysis of social practices

Taylor & Francis
Publication Date
  • Disclosure
  • Counseling
  • Testing
  • Stigma
  • Secrecy
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Philosophy
  • Social Sciences


The reach of HIV counseling and testing has grown rapidly since the 2000s, particularly since 2007 when provider-initiated counseling and testing was implemented alongside voluntary counseling and testing and testing for the prevention of motherto- child transmission. Nevertheless, we still know little about the attendant practices of disclosing HIV-positive status. Persistently high rates of non-disclosure raise difficult ethical, public health and human rights issues. The articles in this special issue show that disclosure practices in Africa not only follow the public health rationality but are shaped by fears of stigma that favor secrecy. They show how practices of disclosure are embedded in social relationships. More specifically, they present disclosure practices at the intersection of five social spaces: international norms, national legislation and public health recommendations; household and family settings; couples’ relationships; parental relationships; and relationships between health workers and PLWHA. The authors describe how people pursue strategies of disclosure in one or more of these social spaces, which sometimes allows them to avoid barriers (for instance when they choose to disclose only partially to certain ‘significant others’ in the household). One important finding is that counselors often do not support PLWHA to disclose their HIV status. Counselors themselves may be influenced by divergent logics and experience conflicts in values; they may also lack sufficient knowledge and skills to discuss sensitive issues based on rapidly changing medical data and public health recommendations.Keywords: disclosure, counseling, testing, stigma, secrecy

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