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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Being positive: women living with HIV and AIDS in British Columbia Howard, Carol H.


The following study is a phenomenological inquiry into five white, middle classwomen's experiences living with HIV and AIDS in British Columbia. The purpose, rather than describing AIDS as a medical phenomenon, is to document how being diagnosed HIV positive has affected the women's lives, health, relationships and livelihoods. A context for the women's stories is provided through a critical review of the biomedical model, as well as biomedical and community organizing perspectives on women and AIDS. Mostly verbatim accounts drawn from taped interviews conducted with the five women describes their lives with HIV and AIDS. Experiences surrounding their diagnosis, sources of information about their illness, strategies for coping, management of health, and management of personal and social identities are the themes explored. The women's participation, the role of the researcher, and the work produced are considered parts of an interactive process, demonstrating shared authority between the researcher and participants in the ethnographic process. Documentation of the women's experiences leads to a discussion of the ways in which they successfully manage and control their own health care and well being within the context of larger social forces of sexism, medical bias and stigma. The women are given the last word in the study. In conclusion, a review oftheir situations three years after their initial interviews contributes a significant emotional and descriptive time-depth to the study.

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