From "Secret" to "Sensitive Issue": Shifting Ideas About HIV Disclosure Among Middle-Aged and Older Rural South Africans in the Era of Antiretroviral Treatment

J Aging Health. 2022 Jan;34(1):14-24. doi: 10.1177/08982643211020202. Epub 2021 May 23.


Objective: As HIV shifts from "death sentence" to "chronic condition," disclosure of HIV status to intimate partners and family is a significant component of both prevention and treatment adherence. While disclosure is closely considered in many studies, few examine middle-aged and older persons' (age 40+) perspectives or practices. We trace older rural South Africans' views on HIV disclosure to their partners and family members in a high prevalence community over a period of extensive antiretroviral treatment (ART) rollout.

Methods: Community focus group discussions (FGD) conducted in 2013 and 2018 show shifts in older persons' thinking about HIV disclosure.

Findings: Our FGD participants saw fewer negative consequences of disclosure in 2018 than in 2013, and highlighted positive outcomes including building trust (partners) as well as greater support for medication collection and adherence (family).

Discussion: Particularly as the epidemic ages in South Africa and globally, tracing changes in older persons' views on disclosure is an important step in developing messaging that could enhance treatment as prevention and ART adherence.

Keywords: HIV disclosure; South Africa; aging; antiretroviral treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Disclosure*
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Rural Population
  • Sexual Partners


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents