African American Women and HIV/AIDS: Critical Responses

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

4
HIV-Positive African American Women and Their
Families: Barriers to Effective Family Coping

Sharon E. Williams

AIDS has had a devastating effect on African American women and their families. A diagnosis of HIV/AIDS is much more than a medical situation; it has social, psychological, emotional, financial, and legal ramifications that affect the entire family constellation (Ward 1993). Women and their families are called upon to assume and adopt new roles if the family is to cope effectively, and the family's coping capabilities directly impact both psychosocial functioning and physical survival among women. Quality of life is significantly associated with HIV mortality. In general, AIDS-diagnosed women die sooner than their male counterparts (Cox 2000; O'Donnell 1996); yet women of color die nearly five times more quickly than their White counterparts (Land 1994). Further, the rate of progression from HIV-infection to AIDS among African American women is fifteen times greater than that of White HIV-positive women (Centers for Disease Control 1995). Obviously AIDS stigma, poverty, and other environmental barriers to effective coping play a large role in the quality of life and survival for African American women living with HIV and AIDS. Much has been written about the role of the African American family system as a resource to women; however, women and their families are challenged by stressful relationship dynamics. Although many family systems are coping effectively, this chapter focuses on the barriers to effective coping, barriers that must be addressed in order to assist HIV-positive women in their survival.

This chapter addresses the HIV/AIDS epidemic relative to African American women and their families from a family systems perspective with emphasis on challenges to effective coping within a family context. The author examines the impact of HIV disease on women's quality of life as caretakers, lack of readily

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