Women are one of the fastest growing risk groups for
HIV infection in the United States, but little is known
about how women manage the problems and concerns commonly
faced by individuals who are HIV positive. HIV disease
results in compromised lifestyles for women as they cope
with physiological and psychosocial problems that accompany
The purpose of this focused ethnography was to explore
health-promoting lifestyles of women with HIV disease.
Research questions guiding this study were: 1) What do women
with HIV disease believe they can do to enhance and/or
maintain their health after diagnosis? and 2) How do women
promote and maintain their health and well-being?
Purposive sampling was used to obtain nine European American
participants between the ages of 27 and 52 years. These
participants were recruited from the southeastern United
States. Semi-structured interviews and observation
participation were used to obtain data. The majority of
participants were interviewed three times. Observation
participation occurred during interviews, at conferences;
and volunteer group meetings attended by the researcher and
the participants. Data analysis was concurrent with data
collection enabling the researcher to confirm her
interpretations with the participants.
Three major themes were identified: 1) Reaching out to
others, 2) Searching for meaning, and 3) Buying time. These
themes constituted a health-promoting lifestyle that enabled
women to adjust to the change in their identity from a
healthy person to a person with HIV disease. Initially,
women focused on restoring their well-being, but later
initiated changes to enhance, maintain, and maximize their
INDEX WORDS: HIV disease, Women, Stigma, Self-in-relation,
Health-promoting lifestyle, Health behavior, Health belief
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