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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring associations, themes and characteristics of social support, stress, and coping in the lives of gay male partners of men with HIV/AIDS Graham, David Thomas Samuel


A small but growing body of research indicates that gay male partners of men with HIV/AIDS face a unique combination of psycho-social stresses. This study explored the associations, themes, and characteristics of social support, stress, and coping in their lives. This study used mixed methodology comprised of a questionnaire survey and in-depth interviews. The samples consisted of two different sets of individuals: 39 survey and 6 interview participants. The major findings were: First, the survey results indicated few significant associations between social support, stress, and coping and its related variables; however, the use of blaming/wishful-thinking coping styles was associated with higher perceived stress. Several significant associations were found between various intervening variables; most notably, lower self-esteem was associated with lower perceived coping ability, and greater amounts of caregiving were associated with higher perceived stress. Second, the subjects reported generally high levels of social support, but perceived notably less support from family members than from partners and friends. Third, the survey and interview subjects typically used a variety of coping styles, the most common of which was 'seeking support'. Three coping themes emerged from the interviews: 'seeking support', 'shifting the focus', and 'living day by day'. Fourth, the in-depth interviews indicated the subjects experienced significant ongoing stress derived from the volatility and uncertainty in their lives, their accumulated losses, and their need to 'juggle responsibilities.' The most common sources of stress in the participant's relationships with their partners were sex-related problems and depression. For social workers, this study's findings highlight some of the complex psycho-social problems and characteristics faced by this population group and the need to develop appropriate interventions and policies to support them.

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