Psychological Trauma Following Disclosure of HIV Status to Significant Others in Women Living With HIV and AIDS

Oluyemi, P. Atibioke, Helen, O. Osinowo


The impact of HIV and AIDS among African women has been devastating. Since the beginning of the epidemic, over 100,000 cases of AIDS have been reported among women, and 57% of these cases were among African women. New infections among women are increasing at a faster rate than new infections among men.  In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV positive women outnumbered HIV positive men. Gender inequalities in personal relationships, in the community, within the workforce, and in political circles affect women all over the world. Inequalities increase women’s vulnerability to poverty and vice-versa: both impact harshly on their ability to enjoy full human rights.


The research examined Psychological trauma women experienced following their HIV status disclosure to significant others. The study adopted descriptive qualitative method utilizing semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs) as data collection methods. The study was conducted at the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), University College Hospital Ibadan. Because of the nature of the study, eighteen participants, all outpatient women of different categories were selected using purposive sampling. Only women who have experienced various negative consequences after disclosure of their HIV status participated in the study.


Findings revealed various negative consequences experienced by the participants after disclosing their HIV status to significant others. Three out of the eight married participants representing 37.5 % of married participants and 16.7% of the overall participants reported being sent away from their marriage by their husbands following disclosure of their HIV status. Three participants representing 16.7 % were relieved of their jobs because of their HIV status, 8 participants representing 44.4% reported various forms of verbal abuses from close friends, family members or health workers and 4 representing 22.2% faced family rejection following the disclosure of their HIV status. Further probing revealed that these women reported various type of psychological trauma, ranging from; regret for disclosing their status, worries about further stigmatization from those who may learn about their HIV status, low self esteem, and social withdrawer. Some have become economically grounded because of loss of jobs or withdrawal of social supports by love ones due to the disclosure of their HIV status.


From the findings of this study, it becomes clear that stigma and discrimination, rejection, isolation and other negative consequences may result from disclosing HIV status to significant others especially in women living with HIV & AIDS. This has impacted negatively on the efforts at curtailing the spread of the disease, getting people to know their status and in adherence to treatment regimen. However, disclosure of HIV positive status can result in negative consequences such as mentioned above, it is widely recognized that PLWHAs could still benefit from disclosure and the participants in this study though regretted the consequences that followed their disclosure, they encourage others to disclose their status.


From these results, it is expedient to promote or design intervention and education programmes that can convey information to people at various levels on the need to stop the stigma and discrimination and other negative emotions that are currently being melted on people living with HIV & AIDS. Furthermore, it becomes important that psychologists should put more efforts at improving the Psychological wellbeing of people living with HIV & AIDS who may also be suffering from Psychological trauma following disclosure of their status. Appropriate Psychological interventions should be designed to ameliorate their suffering. Nigeria Government should formulate relevant laws that will protect People living with HIV & AIDS from abuses.


Key word: Psychological Trauma, Disclosure, HIV Status, Significant Others, Psychological intervention.

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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