Disclosure by people living with HIV or AIDS is critical for HIV prevention and care. However, many women choose not to disclose their HIV status for fear of negative outcomes, such as blame and rejection. The World Health Organization suggests that HIV/AIDS support groups help to encourage women to disclose their status, but little is known about the role of such groups in Kenya. This study used qualitative research methods to gain insight into rural women's experience of disclosing a positive HIV status and it explores opinions about the role of support groups in relation to disclosure. Focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews were conducted with HIV/AIDS support group members and leaders. Thematic analysis showed that the women felt a sense of duty to inform others of their HIV status, particularly in order to prevent HIV transmission and to encourage sexual partners to be tested. There were multiple problems associated with disclosure, and negative outcomes such as blame and rejection were common. Support groups gave the women confidence and provided emotional support, which may have assisted them with coping with the negative outcomes of disclosure. The findings demonstrate that such support may improve women's experience of HIV-status disclosure and possibly even promote disclosure. However, initiatives such as these must protect those who disclose and therefore should take into account the local cultural and economic context.
Keywords: Africa; prevention; qualitative research; resource-poor settings; socioeconomic factors; stigma.