Abstract: Living With HIV/AIDS: Exploring Latino Women's Narratives (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

13218 Living With HIV/AIDS: Exploring Latino Women's Narratives

Friday, January 15, 2010: 11:00 AM
Pacific Concourse N (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Sandra Yudilevich Espinoza, PhD , Salem State College, Assistant Professor, Salem, MA
Patricia M. Reeves, PhD , University of Georgia, Associate Professor, Athens, GA
Background/Purpose: HIV/AIDS continues to be a major public health problem, and Latinas are overrepresented in the numbers of those infected with HIV. Furthermore, Latinas have yet to benefit from the transformation of HIV/AIDS into a chronic disease. This is due, in part, to the existing knowledge gap in understanding how Latinas themselves define, describe, and assign meaning to their experiences of living with HIV/AIDS. That is to say, the Latina emic perspective is largely missing from the extant literature. This study is significant for its potential to help fill this knowledge gap—a critical need given the importance of understanding this frame of reference in improving outcomes.

The purpose of this study was to explore Latinas' narratives of living with HIV/AIDS. The central questions guiding this study were: (a) What issues contribute to Latinas becoming infected with HIV? (b) What factors, or confluence of factors, play a role in Latinas living with HIV/AIDS? (c) What does being infected with HIV/AIDS mean to Latinas? and (d) How do Latinas make sense of being infected with HIV/AIDS within the broader context of their lives?

Methods: Utilizing a narrative inquiry approach and purposeful sampling, nine Latino women, first-generation U.S. immigrants were recruited. Participants ranged from 27 to 48 years of age, were diverse in country of origin, and somewhat variant in current faith identification. The overarching analytic methodology employed in this study was Polkinghorne's (1995) narrative configuration approach, complemented by Denzin's (1989) interpretive biography method of analysis. In addition, Chase's (2005) analytic schema provided the rationale for analyzing individual narratives first and conducting comparative analysis second.

Results demonstrated that Latinas experience HIV/AIDS within a context comprised of insufficient formal education, scant HIV/AIDS information, domestic violence, culturally-prescribed gender norms, religious tenets, pervasive poverty, HV/AIDS-related stigma, and immigration status. In addition, analysis revealed that meaning and sense making of HIV infection is a culturally-mediated response that is congruent with the exigencies in participants' lives. In exploring the participants' HIV/AIDS narratives, a richer depiction of their experiences emerged than exists in the literature to date, thus helping fill the knowledge gap regarding the context of Latinas' lives.

Conclusions/Implications: Three general conclusions can be drawn from the analyses: (a) Making a distinction between contributing issues to HIV infection and the factors involved in living with HIV/AIDS creates a false dichotomy; (b) the meaning ascribed to and sense made of being HIV/AIDS infected are both culturally mediated and congruent with the exigencies of the participants' lives; and (c) there is an insufficient understanding of the gestalt of the HIV/AIDS experience in the participants' lives. The findings have implications for future research on the HIV/AIDS experience of women of color in general and Latinas in particular, including the need for increased participatory, community-based research. Such evidence also has important implications for social work practice and education, and has relevance for professionals in allied disciplines (e.g., health care), given the emphasis in this study on both the nature of HIV/AIDS and the psychosocial needs of Latino women living with it.