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Why Governments Should Promote Supportive Disclosure

Five Reasons to Tell Children When They Are HIV-Positive:

1) Children who know their status are able to participate more actively in the treatment, and are more likely to adhere to ART, according to the World Health Organization. Health workers and caregivers told Human Rights Watch that some children who do not know why they are taking so many medications every day refuse to take ART, particularly as they grow into adolescence.

2) Sexually active children, most often older adolescents, who know their HIV status can choose to use protection during sex and other risky activities. When sexually active people do not know about their status, they risk spreading HIV.

3) Children who are told about their status learn that it is acceptable to talk about HIV, which helps address the stigma surrounding the disease. By not telling a child that they are HIV-positive, the stigma of the illness gets transmitted to the next generation, and often this results in children feeling ashamed and isolated.

4) Children who are told about their status in a supportive way tend to be more self-confident than those who have not been told, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Academy has also stressed that a "conspiracy of silence" may isolate children from potential sources of support and undermine trust between adults and children. Health workers in Kenya have found that disclosure before adolescence is preferable, as adolescents often react badly to disclosure.

5) Children have the right to health information under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. If children are not told their status but are mature enough to understand and appreciate it, their right to health and information may have been violated.

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