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Biographical Bifurcations: The Unveiling Experience of HIV-Infected Adolescents in the Perinatal Period

Karène Proulx-Boucher, Mylène Fernet, Martin Blais, Joseph Josy Lévy, Joanne Otis, Jocelyne Thériault, Johanne Samson, Guylaine Morin, Normand Lapointe, Germain Trottier

When HIV transmission from mother to child occurs, one of the major concerns is revealing the diagnosis to the infected children, something that could be experienced as a biographical turning point. The objective is to explore the effect of the disclosure of the diagnosis as experienced by adolescents who have been living with HIV since their birth. Twenty-nine HIV-positive young (aged from 10 to 18) agreed to a semi-structured individual interview focussed on the revelation of their serologic status. The data thus gathered was submitted to a content analysis (Paillé and Mucchielli, 2005; Sabourin, 2008). The disclosure of the serologic status runs through three stages: 1) that of a hidden reality, where the adolescents are unaware of their serologic status; 2) that of a reality which is finally disclosed when, at about the age of 11, they learn that they have an HIV infection; and 3) that of a reality they need to progressively integrate, where its disclosure becomes a participating factor in the construction of their personal and social identities. The disclosure becomes an extension of their biographical continuity by legitimizing their ARV treatments, at a time when they appear to be contemplating gradual changes with respect to their private lives and personal sexuality.