The first focus group largely addressed how participants took their medication privately, how they hid their medications and who they were able to trust at their school. All the participants had told at least someone in their family about their status. One participant had disclosed his status to his girlfriend after having attended a support group on disclosure hosted by WE-ACTx. A few told a “school representative” which included either a teacher, school matron or headmaster/headmistress.
When asked about the challenges that participants faced when hiding their status, they began describing the difficulties of needing to take their medication in private. Many of the participants had revealed their HIV status to at least one school representative who helped them to take their ARVs each day. One participant would tell her classmates that her parents were worried about her and that she needed to talk to them on the phone (in the headmaster’s office) each day. Because students in boarding school are banned from using their cell phones, they are only allowed to make calls in the presence school representatives. Another participant would tell his classmates that the headmaster was calling him into his office each morning and evening to deliver a bottle of water. He would bring his headmaster a bottle of water and then use that bottle to take his medications in his office. While he was doing this, other HIV positive students would also be in there taking their medications. This would become a time when his classmates and him would get to know each other, but they never discussed their HIV status even though they knew that they were each positive.