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Healthcare workers living with HIV have different motivations for disclosing or concealing their HIV status
Roger Pebody, 2017-11-10 07:20:00

Nurses and other healthcare workers who are living with HIV have mixed reactions when they mention their HIV status to colleagues, according to a small Dutch study reported in the November/December issue of the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. Some healthcare workers disclosed because they expected a positive reaction or they felt the need to share a secret. Others concealed their HIV status because they feared a negative reaction or did not believe that disclosure was relevant or necessary.

Many people with HIV discuss their HIV status with partners, friends and family, but conceal it with employers and colleagues. Moreover, there can be particular difficulties for people working in healthcare, because of anxieties about infection control. Nonetheless, Sarah Stutterheim found that all previous studies investigating the experiences of healthcare providers with HIV were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, with none from a European context.

She recruited ten healthcare workers living with HIV by placing an advertisement on the Dutch HIV Association’s website and through snowball sampling. The participants took part in face-to-face interviews in 2011 and 2012.

Six were nurses, three were nursing assistants and one was a pharmacist. Workplace settings were varied – general hospitals, a psychiatric hospital, nursing homes for the elderly, a group home for people with disabilities and a pharmacy.

Nine participants were gay men and one was a heterosexual woman. All were Dutch. Their mean age was 46 and they had been diagnosed for a mean of nine years.