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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Aboriginal women living with HIV/AIDS : an empowerment perspective Hill, Donna Michele


This qualitative research study focuses explicitly on understanding the experiences and perceptions of urban Aboriginal women living with HIV/AIDS. Stigmatizing attitudes and language have serious impacts upon the lives of HIV-positive Aboriginal women. The ways our society presently addresses the women needs to change. With the insights and assistance of four Aboriginal women living with HIV, this project adds to the presently sparse qualitative literature in this research area. Current research indicates that there are many factors associated with urban Aboriginal women being at higher risk for infection and lower physical and mental health, such as race, socio-economic conditions, isolation, oppression and violence, family history, substance abuse, discrimination, and often the responsibilities of childrearing. However, current research analysis and presentation is insufficient, and more in-depth questions arise. Material was collected using semi-structured, open-ended questioning conversations with the participants. Two guiding research questions were asked: 1) What is it like for you, living with HIV right now? and 2) What would you want other people to learn from your experiences? The women’s stories provide an avenue for participants to voice some of their triumphs and challenges about being an Aboriginal woman living with HIV/AIDS. For the community at large, this is also an opportunity to hear first hand, important information such as this. In this work, I have tried to adhere to the tenets of Indigenous methodologies by allowing the life-stories to resonate as holistic representations. Rather than deconstructing the women’s stories through naturalistic analysis (which continues to categorize and to objectify participants), the stories are viewed through a Health Narrative Topography whereby thematic genres such as Restitution, Chaos, and Quest are illuminated, while also being critically aware of some of the limitations to this framework. Three overarching themes are revealed through the women’s stories: 1) the empowerment and resiliency demonstrated by the participants; 2) the need for cultural competency in a society that continues to stigmatize Aboriginal and HIV-positive women; and, 3) the need for a more holistic approach within society when it comes to education, learning, and healing.

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