Social Support and Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Status Disclosure to Friends and Family: Implications for Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Positive Youth

J Adolesc Health. 2015 Jul;57(1):73-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.03.002. Epub 2015 May 1.


Purpose: The fear of negative reactions from friends and family members affects many human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive adolescents' decisions regarding disclosure of their HIV status. The complex relationships and interplay among social support, fear of stigma, and disclosure of HIV status need to be better understood among youth living with HIV (YLHIV).

Methods: Social support from friends and family members and HIV status disclosure were examined among 402 youth, aged 12-24 years, living with HIV.

Results: In separate analyses, (1) HIV-positive youth who reported more than one close friend and (2) HIV-positive youth who reported that friends and family members continued to socialize with them after disclosure of their HIV diagnosis, had higher levels of perceived social support overall (both p < .05). Furthermore, perceived social support did not differ significantly between those participants for whom no family member knew their HIV status and those for whom at least one family member knew their status (p = .13). Race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and current living situation were not associated with family's knowledge of the participants' HIV infection status (p > .07).

Conclusion: This investigation adds important information concerning YLHIV, whose early disclosure experiences may influence their resilience and future coping mechanisms regarding experienced stigma, and thus influence the length of time they conceal their HIV status, their decision to disclose their status, and potentially their decisions regarding treatment. Interventions and support systems to assist YLHIV with disclosure, as well as medical care, may improve their overall quality of life.

Keywords: Adolescents; HIV status disclosure; Social network; Social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Social Support*
  • Young Adult