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Parents with HIV/AIDS are confronted with unique challenges when discussing HIV-related information with their children. Strategies for navigating these challenges effectively have not been systematically examined. In this study, we conducted in-depth interviews with 76 parents with HIV/AIDS who had children ages 10–18 years. Guided by O'Keefe and Delia's definition of a complex communication situation and Goldsmith's normative approach to interpersonal communication, we examined parents’ goals for discussing HIV-related information, factors that made conversations challenging, and instances where these conversational purposes conflicted with one another. Our data reveal the following parent–adolescent communication predicaments: relaying safety information about HIV while minimizing child anxiety, modeling open family communication without damaging one's parental identity, and balancing parent–child relational needs amid living with an unpredictable health condition. Parents also described a variety of strategies for mitigating challenges when discussing HIV-related topics. Strategies parents perceived as effective included reframing HIV as a chronic, manageable illness; keeping talk educational; and embedding HIV-related topics within more general conversations. The theoretical and practical applications of these findings are discussed with regard to their relevance to health communication scholars and HIV care professionals.


This is an author's accepted manuscript of an article published in the Health Communication, (2014). © Taylor & Francis, available online at: doi: 10.1080/10410236.2012.757715.