Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Perceived Effect of Time on HIV/AIDS Identity Incorporation

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Perceived Effect of Time on HIV/AIDS Identity Incorporation

Article excerpt

Since the widespread use of life-extending medications, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has been considered a chronic illness for countries where highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is available (Mahungu, Roger, & Johnson, 2009). The number of individuals 13 years or older living with AIDS in the United States grew from approximately 219,000 to 470,000 between 1996 and 2008 (Torian, Chen, Rhodes, & Hall, 2011).

Living with a chronic illness such as HIV/AIDS requires that individuals contemplate the effect of that illness on oneself. Due to medical advances, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) face developmental tasks they might not have previously. They might need to consider preparing for retirement, taking care of aging parents while working full time or learning to become a grandparent.

A person's self is also adjusted shaped and changed throughout life. Those that champion identity theory assert that "persons have as many identities as distinct networks of relationships in which they occupy positions and play roles" (Stryker & Burke, 2000, p. 286). Rooted in structural symbolic interactionism, Stryker's strand of identity theory has several points. First, individuals' access to smaller social networks is influenced by "the larger social structure within which the networks are embedded" (Burke & Stets, 2009, p. 45). Hence, different networks are available to different individuals. Second, different roles can be enacted across a variety of networks and these roles are arranged in a salience hierarchy with the more salient identities more likely to be enacted across various contexts (Stryker, 1980). Third, the salience of an identity depends on the commitment to that identity which can be measured by the "number of persons one is related to through that identity" and the depth of ties to others based on that identity (Burke & Stets, 2009, p. 47). "Tom" might have a highly salient Person Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) identity. He might work as a counselor at an AIDS Service Organization (ASO) and talk about his experiences of being HIV-positive with clients. He might volunteer to educate others in his community about HIV/AIDS by speaking to college students about his HIV-positive status. Most of his friends might be HIV-positive or be living with AIDS. In contrast, "Tom's" identity as hospice volunteer might be less salient as he does not discuss that identity with many individuals.

With HIV/AIDS considered a chronic disease and since identity development is a lifelong process, a question of interest has concerned how individuals incorporate HIV/AIDS into one's Self. Although researchers have examined this question to some extent (Awa, & Yamashita, 2009; Baumgartner, 2007; Baumgartner & David, 2009; Dozier, 1997; Gurevich, 1996; Lewis, 1994; Sandstrom, 1990; Tewksbury & McGaughey, 1998), they have paid scant attention to the influence of various contexts on the identity incorporation process. These contexts include the sociocultural (e.g., race, class, gender and culture), interpersonal (e.g., support and stigma), temporal (e.g., developmental stage in a person's life or social time, historical time, chronological time and the passage of time), and situational (e.g., contexts specific to that person's experience such as pregnancy) (Ichovics, Thayaparan, & Ethier, 2001; Neugarten & Datan, 1973). Although the effect of stigma and/or support (Awa & Yamashita, 2009; Baumgartner, 2007; Baumgartner & David, 2009; Dozier, 1997; Gurevich, 1996; Lewis, 1994; Tewksbury & McGaughey, 1998; Sandstrom, 1990) on the incorporation of the HIV/AIDS into the self has been mentioned in several studies, the influence of time on the incorporation of the HIV/AIDS identity into the self remains under-researched. An investigation of the effect of historical time on the incorporation process could alert health educators to effectiveness of information campaigns on the availability of life extending medications. …

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