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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"I chose to fight" : the lives and experiences of aboriginal women who are living with HIV/AIDS McCall, Jane


The increasingly high rates of mortality and morbidity amongst HIV+ Aboriginal women indicate that there is a need to address deficiencies in the delivery of supportive services and health care. The purpose of this study was to develop a greater understanding of the barriers, challenges and successes that Aboriginal women face in the context of living with HIV/AIDS. It is anticipated that the findings from the study will be used to inform decision making around the development and delivery of appropriate, responsive and accessible policies and programs that will assist Aboriginal women who are living with HIV/AIDS achieve a state of health and well-being that is equitable and that they perceive as optimal. This study utilized a qualitative interpretive descriptive methodology to gather data from eight Aboriginal women living with HIV/AIDS. Data were collected utilizing one on one, semi-structured interviews. Two of the women were contacted by telephone for follow-up interviews to review the preliminary findings. An expert informant, who self-identified as Aboriginal and who has expertise in the field of HIV/AIDS, provided ongoing advice and feedback throughout the study in relation to study design, analysis and interpretation of the data as well as write up of the findings. The data analysis proceeded simultaneously with the interviews utilizing a process of constant comparative analysis. Thematic analysis was completed as I moved between the transcripts to identify commonalities and variations within the emerging themes. The ultimate result was a description of five themes that described the range of experiences that the women discussed. The five themes that were identified included: fear of rejection; looking for friendship; the struggle to stay well; finding strength in adversity; and HIV is just one problem among many. Three overarching issues were apparent, including the intersecting social, economic and political forces that constrained the women’s lives, and the resultant experience of social suffering. Also of note was the significant degree of resilient behaviour that the women brought to bear on their life circumstances.

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