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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Repurposing a Legacy: The Experiences of African American Women Receiving a Human Immunodeficiency Virus Diagnosis at the Age of 50 or Older

  • Author(s): Rankin, Ariel Marcia
  • Advisor(s): Nyamathi, Adeline M
  • et al.

By the end of 2015, over half of all HIV/AIDS cases will be in adults aged 50 and older. One of the fastest growing older adult sub groups afflicted by the HIV epidemic is older African American women. At present, no studies have explored the unique experiences of older African American women who have received an HIV diagnosis at the age 50 and older. A descriptive qualitative study employing constructivist grounded theory methodology was used to gain insights into the experience of African American women diagnosed with HIV at age 50 and older. In taking the constructivist approach, analysis stemmed from shared experiences and relationships with participants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, audio-recorded and transcribed. A total of 16 interviews were used. Open-ended, non-leading questions and probes were developed from a literature review and community members’ suggestions. Coding, mapping, analytic strategy usage, and memoing all assisted in creation of the grounded theory. The results of this study demonstrated how older African American women utilized various strategies to repurpose a legacy, after an HIV diagnosis. The strategies used by the women included re-evaluating perceptions of HIV risk, learning lessons from tumultuous times, and reconciling past and present events. The women’s lack of HIV risk perceptions and their provider’s failure to assess risky behaviors resulted in delayed HIV testing. After being tested, the women embarked on a journey to resolve newfound issues, and in the process, learned various life lessons. This process allowed the women to make meaning of their HIV diagnosis and set out on a path to self-discovery. The results of this study can shape forthcoming research on the HIV trajectory of older African American women living with HIV/AIDS and at risk for HIV/AIDS.

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