Why tell children: A synthesis of the global literature on reasons for disclosing or not disclosing an HIV diagnosis to children 12 and under


While the psychological and health benefits of knowing one’s HIV diagnosis have been documented for adults and adolescents, practice is still in development for younger children. Moderating conditions for whether or not to tell a child he/she has HIV vary by region and local context. They include accessibility of treatment, consideration of HIV as a stigmatizing condition, prevalence of HIV, and an accompanying presumption that any illness is HIV-related, parent or caregiver concerns about child reactions, child’s worsening health, assumptions about childhood and child readiness to know a diagnosis, and lack of policies such as those that would prevent bullying of affected children in schools. In this systematic review of the global literature, we summarize the reasons caregivers give for telling or not telling children 12 and under their HIV diagnosis. We also include articles in which children reflect on their desires for being told. While a broad number of reasons are given for telling a child – e.g., to aid in prevention, adaptation to illness (e.g., primarily to promote treatment adherence), understanding social reactions, and maintaining the child-adult relationship – a narrower range of reasons, often related to immediate child or caregiver well-being or discomfort, are given for not telling. Recommendations are made to improve the context for disclosure by providing supports before, during, and after disclosure and to advance the research agenda by broadening samples and refining approaches.


Krauss BJ, Letteney S, Okoro CN.




  • Population(s)
    • Children or Youth (less than 18 years old)
    • General HIV+ population


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