African American Women and HIV/AIDS: Critical Responses

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

7
Life Transformations of HIV-Positive African
American Women: Theories and Evidence of Change

Mildred Williamson

A theoretical model for understanding individual response to a life-altering, traumatic event such as major illness is the concept of stress and coping as explained by Lazarus and Folkman (1984). These authors noted that major stress, such as a crisis, causes some people to draw upon adaptive resources they never thought they had and that such people can gain strength and grow from stress.

A qualitative study of eighteen African American HIV-positive women was conducted to learn if perhaps some people do something more than [adapt] to life when faced with a major stressor such as HIV/AIDS. The study explored whether an alternative paradigm may exist: to examine if women showed evidence of [transformation,] a concept that transcends adaptation. The basis for conducting the study came from the clinical experience and observations of many women served by the Women & Children HIV Program (WCHP) at Cook County Hospital/CORE Center in Chicago whose adjustment to life with HIV was characterized by reclaiming relationships with children or family of origin, reducing-high risk behaviors, and finding or reclaiming spirituality. This chapter presents an overview of the theoretical basis for the construct of transformation; describes how African American HIV-positive women in WCHP came to perceive and define life with HIV, even while living with multiple stressors; and concludes with implications for social service and public health intervention strategies with disenfranchised women of color.


DEFINING TRANSFORMATION

The term transformation for the purpose of the study means [to change characteristics or actions of daily living in a dramatic or profound way.] Contextualized

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