Experiences of athletes living with HIV following disclosure of their sero-status in Ndirande Blantyre Malawi
Athletes are at risk for HIV infection due to their celebrity status which enables them to associate with multiple concurrent sexual partnerships. Athletes with an HIV sero-positive status should be encouraged to disclose their HIV positive status to enable them access appropriate treatment, care and support. The purpose of the study was to explore the experiences of athletes living with HIV following disclosure of their sero-status. The study was conducted in Ndirande Township in the city of Blantyre, Malawi. Twelve purposively sampled athletes living with HIV, four males and eight females between the ages of 18 and 30 years, participated in this study. Data was collected using qualitative methods conducting semi-structured, face to face individual interviews and the data were analysed using thematic analysis. The consequence of disclosure model was used to explain the themes that emerged from the data. The results of the study indicated that all athletes disclosed their HIV seropositive status. The majority of the athletes disclosed their HIV positive status to spouses, family members, friends and health care providers in order to access support and treatment. However, athletes did not disclose to their clubs and sports institutions because there was no conducive environment. After disclosure of their status, most athletes had positive experiences that included increased psychosocial support and care from their social networks. Some athletes had negative experiences such as stigma and discrimination from teammates and distant relatives. While athletes living with HIV had support from families and community support groups, there was a lack of appropriate support systems in the sport institutions. In addition, athletes living with HIV had limited access to health care services. For athletes living with HIV to remain productive, there is need for further research and the establishment of appropriate support systems in different levels of the sport institutions.