Serostatus disclosure to sexual partners by HIV-infected women before and after the advent of HAART.Women Health. 2005; 41(4):63-85.WH
HIV-positive individuals have been encouraged by public health officials to disclose their HIV status to sexual partners. In deciding what to do, however, they must weigh what they see as the potential costs and benefits of disclosing or not disclosing. In the present report we examine the reasons women offer for disclosing or not disclosing their serostatus and the reactions to that disclosure among two matched samples of HIV-infected women. The first sample was interviewed in 1994-1996, before the widespread availability of HAART; while the second sample was interviewed from 2000-2003 after these medications were widely in use. The findings reveal striking similarities between the two time periods in women's reasons for sharing or not sharing their status with partners, and the reactions to disclosure they experienced. The reconceptualization of AIDS as a chronic illness, rather than an acute fatal one, did not appear to have diminished women's felt responsibility to share their diagnosis with potential sexual partners nor their fear that disclosure would be met with rejection. The data revealed that disclosure remains a highly stressful event for HIV-infected women and that they experience considerable emotional suffering as a result of the diminished sense of self-worth and physical attractiveness brought about by their diagnosis. These findings suggest that intervention efforts toward reducing the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS and for assisting women to manage the stress of disclosure and non-disclosure and address women's feelings of self-worth continue to be needed despite the advent of HAART.