Secrets, shame and guilt: HIV disclosure in rural Chinese families from the perspective of caregivers

William C.W. Wong, Eleanor Holroyd, Heidi Y.H. Miu, Claire S. Wong, Yanping Zhao, Jianbo Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This in-depth ethnographic study examines the processes, barriers and impacts experienced by Mainland Chinese caregivers residing in rural Yunnan for disclosing HIV status to their adolescents born with the infection and other community members. In particular, highlighted are their associated personal, social, relational and cultural vulnerabilities. A purposeful sample of 13 pairs of HIV-born adolescents between the ages of 11–19 years and their primary caregivers were recruited in December 2014. The Conceptual Model Sexual Health Disclosure (CMSHD) was modified with Chinese culturally specific adaptation to guide the exploration of the complex aspects of the adolescents and caregiver’s relationships. All interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim and then translated into English. Complex sociocultural interactions emerging in these dyadic interviews included guilt, shame, unintended disclosure, the need for secrecy, perceived stigma, ‘loss of face’, protection of parents, inability to support their families and deep concerns over lineage and future marriage prospects amongst the parents, which had significant psychosocial and even physical impacts for these adolescents born with HIV and their families. Frontline health-care workers and HIV peer support programs are recommended to counteract China’s current top-down biomedical disease-related approach to health services. It is crucial to provide instrumental avenues of confidential psychosocial support including disclosure approaches for caregivers of HIV positive adolescents within a uniquely Chinese cultural context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-303
Number of pages12
JournalVulnerable Children and Youth Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017


  • China
  • HIV
  • culture
  • disclosure
  • parent–child relationship
  • stigma


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