Diversity & Equality in Health and Care Open Access

  • ISSN: 2049-5471
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Abstract

Telling children about HIV in transnational African families: tensions about rights

Martha Chinouya

Increasingly, children are construed as persons with rights to information on matters that affect their wellbeing, including the presence of the human immune deficiency virus (HIV) in their lives. This paper, based on interviews with 60 HIV-positive migrant African parents recruited in London and the home counties, shows how these parents made sense of the language of children’s rights and disclosed to their children that HIV affected them. The word affected refers to HIV-positive children and those whose parent or guardian is also HIV positive. The parents reported 164 children, a majority (81%) less than 18 years, 10% 19–24 years and 9% above the age of 25 years. Most (73%) were their biological children. The remaining children (27%) were orphans for whom they had a parental responsibility. Forty-eight per cent of the children were left behind in the country from which their parents emigrated. Parents expressed concerns about the language of rights, which they perceived as bestowing ‘too much liberties’ on children. However, parents also believed that children, depending on their age, had a right to know that the virus affected them. One-third of the children, most above age 18 years, were more likely to know that their parents were HIV positive. The child’s residency influenced the parents’ decision to tell HIV positive children about their own status.Non-resident children, back home, were less likely to know that they were living with the virus. Gender compromised a parent’s confidentiality, with mothers more likely to be linked to their child’s HIV status than the child’s biological father.