African American Women and HIV/AIDS: Critical Responses

By Dorie J. Gilbert; Ednita M. Wright | Go to book overview

2
Deep from Within the Well: Voices of African
American Women Living with HIV/AIDS

Ednita M. Wright


REACTIONS TO THE DIAGNOSIS

I went from feeling fine to no way I could have it to finding out two weeks
before I left here [rehab] last year that I was HIV-positive. When they told
me I just wanted to chop my head off.

Social construction theory assumes that social categories, such as gender, have been constructed through the historical and social processes of human activity (Berger and Luckman 1966). The societal construction of HIV-positive women has a profound impact on the ideological representation and institutional response to this population. Patton (1994, 3) suggests that [erasure of women's needs is systematic, grounded in a complex array of media representations of the HIV pandemic, cultural beliefs, and research and policy paradigms which are deeply gender biased and not easily changed.] Furthermore, HIV-positive African American women are triple-burdened by race, gender, and, for most, class. Following the social constructionist paradigm, I suggest that the role of values, meanings, and intentions in understanding human behavior for women with HIV/AIDS can be richly captured only through qualitative approaches that allow those most involved to provide context and meaning to their situation.

In this chapter, you will meet eight of the many women1 I have interviewed about their experiences with the disease. As reflected in the opening quote, the news of being diagnosed HIV-positive or having AIDS is traumatic and, for some, devastating. With those few words—[you are HIV positive] or [you have AIDS]—an individual's entire world changes. Each of the women I interviewed

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