Development of intimacy among heterosexual adolescents living with perinatally-acquired HIV in Haiti: a qualitative perspective
M. Fernet, M.J. Ascensio, J. Otis
Université du Québec à Montréal, Sexologie, Montréal, Canada
Background: Haitian adolescents living with HIV since birth are relying on the good will of their relatives. They must build intimate relationships through different family structures and need to learn how to develop friendships and romantic relationships. This study explores different aspects of their intimacy.
Methods: This qualitative research was conducted among 29 adolescents, aged 15 to 20 years old, being followed at a clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Participants took part to an individual semi-structured interview. Interviews were analyzed according to Furman and Wehner's (1997) and Brown's (1999) theoretical models. Analysis focused on family typology and gender.
Results: In addition to satisfying their basic needs, family members of HIV-infected adolescents must provide healthcare and make sure they preserve the social image of the family. For adolescents, when their status is disclosed within the biological family, this information becomes a family secret that must be kept. In the reconstituted or newly formed families, sharing this information can cause prejudice, especially when a parent or guardian discloses the HIV status to a person outside of the family. When the adolescents are orphans, the infectious status is known only by the youth and the guardian and seems to create an intimate relationship where discussions about HIV become possible. With regards to their peers, friendship relationships are built through games and evolve into intimacy. Peers can become confidants but, according to participants, HIV is never discussed. Participants consider romantic and sexual relationships to be difficult and prefer to abstain for fear that they might infect their partner or be rejected.
Conclusions: Considered exclusively as a family matter, HIV threatens the development of intimacy within the family itself or through adolescents´ friendships and romantic relationships. The implementation of systemic interventions targeting families and taking into account their specific configurations is recommended.
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