African American Women and HIV/AIDS: Critical Responses

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

8
Making a Way Out of No Way: Spiritual Coping for
HIV-Positive African American Women

Ednita M. Wright

It has been a struggle, and such that I never attempted suicide but it was al-
ways an option, in the back of my mind. The minute I got diagnosed suicide
went right out the window.

We know, now, that all types of diseases are associated with an increased stress level. [One of the more recent findings has been that there is evidenced linking stress and the body's ability to fight disease] (Humphrey and Thomas 1992,31). And even though a definition of the nature and degree of stress remains problematic, it is postulated that stress causes changes to the immune system that lead to infectious, neoplastic, or autoimmune disease (King 1993). The subject of stress and its effects on the immune system is beyond the scope of this work. However, a factor is important to note, particularly, given the stress-producing situations African American women must contend with [normally.] Added to the diagnosis of HIV-infection or AIDS, racism, gender inequities, poor economic conditions, inadequate health care, and negative stereotypes may further increase stress.

Despite the stressful conditions that African American women encounter, they continue to be individuals who persist. Aptheker (1982) noted that African American women do not see themselves exclusively or primarily as victims, but display resistance and strategies for survival in the face of oppression. In their work regarding stress, Lazarus and Folkman (1984) found emotion-focused coping is avoidance of the future implications of a problem, in order to maintain hope and optimism. It seems that the individual's appraisal of a situation and coping strategies best predict health outcomes (Rose and Alexander-Clark 1996). Additionally, existential beliefs, such as faith in God, fate, or some natural order in the universe are general beliefs that enable people to create meaning out of

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