HIV disclosure and depressive symptoms among pregnant women living with HIV: a cross-sectional study in the Democratic Republic of Congo

J Int AIDS Soc. 2022 Feb;25(2):e25865. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25865.


Introduction: Disclosure of one's HIV status may decrease depression and improve the quality of life among people living with HIV. However, there is mixed evidence on the impact of disclosure to partners for pregnant women living with HIV (WLHIV) in areas of intersecting social concerns over disclosure and high prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV). We assessed the association between HIV disclosure and depressive symptoms among pregnant WLHIV in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and examined whether the knowledge of partner's status or recent IPV modified this association.

Methods: We utilized data from participants enrolled in a trial to evaluate the effect of continuous quality interventions on long-term therapy outcomes among HIV-positive pregnant and breastfeeding women in DRC (NCT03048669). Only pregnant women (n = 1392) were included in this cross-sectional analysis. Between November 2016 and June 2019, enrolled participants completed a survey that included the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) to screen recent depressive symptoms, questions about disclosure, knowledge of partner's status and IPV. We used linear models to calculate crude and adjusted mean differences (MDs) between disclosure and depressive symptoms. All analyses were stratified by timing of HIV diagnosis.

Results: Disclosure was higher among participants diagnosed prior to current pregnancy (41% to their partners and 24% to family, friends or others) relative to those diagnosed during current pregnancy (21% to partners and 12% to family). About one-quarter of women reported any type of IPV in the past 12 months. Disclosure to a partner was associated with lower depressive symptoms among women diagnosed prior to current pregnancy (MD -0.55; 95% CI: -1.06, -0.04) but the opposite was observed among those diagnosed during current pregnancy (MD 0.5; 95% CI: -0.4, 1.4). Adjustment for IPV, knowledge of partner's status, age, number of living children and primigravidae did not change MDs substantially.

Conclusions: Women in our sample mostly disclosed to partners despite high IPV burden. The observed association between disclosure to partners and lower depressive symptoms among women diagnosed prior to current pregnancy is consistent with cross-national evidence. A prospective study among pregnant WLHIV is needed to examine longitudinal effects of HIV status disclosure.

Keywords: DR Congo; HIV; depression; intimate partner violence; pregnant women; status disclosure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Disclosure
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Sexual Partners

Associated data