Living with HIV/AIDS
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HIV/AIDS continues to be a major public health problem, and Latinas are overrepresented in the numbers of those infected with HIV. Furthermore, Latinas have yet to benefit from the transformation of HIV/AIDS into a chronic disease. This is due, in part, to the existing knowledge gap in understanding how Latinas themselves define, describe, and assign meaning to their experiences of living with HIV/AIDS. The central questions guiding this study were: (a) what issues contribute to Latinas becoming infected with HIV? (b) What factors, or confluence of factors, play a role in Latinas living with HIV/AIDS? (c) What does being infected with HIV/AIDS mean to Latinas? and (d) How do Latinas make sense of being infected with HIV/AIDS within the broader context of their lives? This qualitative study utilized a narrative inquiry approach and included in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted in Spanish with nine participants who were selected using purposeful sampling. The sample was diverse in age, country of origin, and somewhat variant in current faith identification. Narrative analysis was used to create a narrative summary for each of the individual participants. The data were also examined using biographic techniques which directed my attention toward the role and significance of gender and class, family beginnings, starting points, objective life markers, and turning point experiences (i.e., events, often sparked by epiphanies, which cause a change in life course) in relation to HIV/AIDS in participants’ lives. After identifying individual themes, a comparative analysis of themes across narratives was conducted. The data revealed that Latinas experience HIV/AIDS within a context comprised of insufficient formal education, scant HIV/AIDS information, domestic violence, culturally-prescribed gender norms, religious tenets, pervasive poverty, HV/AIDS-related stigma, and immigration status. In addition, analysis revealed that meaning and sense making of HIV infection is a culturally-mediated response that is congruent with the exigencies in participants’ lives. In exploring the participants’ HIV/AIDS narratives, a richer depiction of their experiences emerged than exists in the literature to date.