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HIV parents disclose their status

© UNICEF 2008
HIV positive mothers attend 'disclosure' workshop

Madurai, Tamil Nadu: “When my children were taken for immunization to the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) she refused to attend to them until I showed her a certificate of their negative status. When we returned home, the children asked me why the nurse denied medicine to them alone. I could not answer their questions,” says one of the parents who attended a two day workshop in Madurai on ‘disclosure’ in September 2008.

There are thousands of parents who would like to disclose their HIV positive status to their children but fear the outcome. The mothers who attended the workshop listed their fears: children may become emotionally disturbed; they may attempt suicide; they may lose interest in education; may tell others outside the family; may discriminate against parents or disrespect them, etc.

Mothers were aware of the benefits of disclosure of their status to their children which they believed would make the children take care of them. Additionally, they felt that the children will gain knowledge about HIV, feel more responsible, know how to care for persons living with HIV, share the pains and problems of their parents and will protect themselves from unsafe relationships. Awareness will also help build stronger relationships between children and parents, they felt.

Most of these ‘positive’ mothers belong to Melur Block in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu. They come from difficult economic backgrounds with no steady source of income but share a common goal: that their children get good education and do well in life.

UNICEF supports a community based project in three villages of Melur, reaching out to 120 affected families and 85 children. The model adopted by the project includes life skills sessions for children and support for the most needy to meet their educational and nutrition needs.

“My children are aware of my HIV status but we do not discuss the issue. Ever since they came to know, they have been taking extra care of me, making sure that I eat well and take my medicines on time,” shared one of the mothers.

Mothers were aware of the benefits of disclosure of their status to their children which they believed would make the children take care of them. Additionally, they felt that the children will gain knowledge about HIV, feel more responsible, know how to care for persons living with HIV, share the pains and problems of their parents and will protect themselves from unsafe relationships. Awareness will also help build stronger relationships between children and parents, they felt.

The participants felt that workshops such as this will help them get over the fears they harbour around disclosing their condition to children and will help them build a support group of positive mothers to share their problems and find solutions.

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