An Investigation into the Lived Experiences of HIV-Positive African Women Living in the UK

Prof Doc Thesis

Tait, Emily 2013. An Investigation into the Lived Experiences of HIV-Positive African Women Living in the UK. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsTait, Emily
TypeProf Doc Thesis

The number of African women living with HIV/AIDS in the UK is increasing. Until recently, research on living with HIV/AIDS has focused on quality of life issues; however, little is known about the experience of African women living as migrants in the UK with this condition. This study aims to contribute to the research literature by gaining an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of black African HIV-positive women living in the UK and how they make sense of their experiences in relation to their individual sense of identity. Identity is defined by an interaction between the self concept and cognitive, social and biological experience and is re-evaluated and negotiated when faced with an HIV-positive diagnosis. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with five African women and their accounts were transcribed verbatim and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). All participants had been diagnosed with HIV and had lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years, spoke fluent English, and were over 18.
Five super-ordinate themes were identified: 1) Given life but it’s a struggle, 2) A will to survive, 3) Positive coping, 4) Negotiating a stigmatised identity and 5) Recognising a new me. The results capture the participants’ first hand phenomenological experiences of living with HIV in the UK. Whilst these women acknowledged the negative impact of living with HIV, they also talked about positive experiences and changes in their perceptions of themselves and their situation. They adapted to a life with HIV by adopting effective ways of coping in a country which few regarded as ‘home’. Stigma had a profound impact on the women’s lives, both relating to their ethnic identity and their HIV status and this made issues of disclosure and how health services were accessed a matter of concern. The women however demonstrated positive adjustment by attempting to reconstruct or renegotiate a coherent and culturally situated identity. The resilience of these women in dealing with challenges in their lives was enhanced by their cultural identity and associated perception of strength. In light of the findings, the study proposes that it is crucial to promote positive interactions with support structures and particularly a sense of community and kinship to ensure that HIV-positive black African women view themselves in a positive way. The results of the analysis are considered in light of existing theory and their clinical implications.

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PrintSep 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Dec 2014
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