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Negotiating cultures: Disclosure of HIV-positive status among people from minority ethnic communities in Sydney

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Because of the multiple stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, disclosure of HIV-positive serostatus is a considerable social risk for those who disclose. While HIV/AIDS-related stigma affects all HIV-positive people, for people from minority cultures additional cultural factors may play a significant role in self-disclosure. This paper draws on data from semi-structured, in-depth interviews with HIV-positive people from minority cultures in Sydney. Disclosure decisions were influenced by gender, sexual orientation, as well as cultural background. Gay men drew on both collectivist and individualist notions of interdependence and self-reliance in different socio-cultural contexts. This enabled them to accommodate the imperative to maintain harmony with the family and meet their individual needs for support. Heterosexual men who had disclosed voluntarily or involuntarily experienced discrimination and avoidance, and interdependence with family and ethnic community was disrupted. Heterosexual women disclosed to no one outside the health care system and were anxious to avoid any disclosure in the future. For all participants, voluntary and involuntary disclosure caused potential and actual disruption of relationships with their families and ethnic communities. The paper concludes by arguing for an ecological perspective of health in which decisions are not located in rational decision making alone but in the broader context of family and community.
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Keywords: Gay men; cultural diversity; heterosexual men and women; interdependence; self-reliance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of New South Wales, Australia

Publication date: March 1, 2007

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