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A diagnosis of HIV infection evoked strong and long lasting emotional reactions in women

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 Q How do women respond to being diagnosed with HIV infection?

DESIGN

Longitudinal qualitative study using a feminist narrative approach.

SETTING

Community based study in Wisconsin, USA.

PARTICIPANTS

55 women ⩾18 years of age (mean age 41 y, range 23–54 y) who reported being infected with HIV (mean 7 y since diagnosis, range 1–21 y). 53% of women were African-American, 36% were white, 7% were Hispanic, and 4% were American Indian. Most of the women were poor, and many had a history of homelessness or drug abuse.

METHODS

Each woman participated in up to 10 tape recorded interviews (about 2 h each) over a 2 year period in a private setting of her choosing. Open ended questions were posed to encourage the women to recount the events of their HIV infection diagnosis and the meaning of those events in their lives. Interviews were transcribed and imported into a computer programme for qualitative research. Within-case and across-case analyses were done to identify patterns of events, behaviours, and emotions related to HIV diagnosis.

MAIN FINDINGS

Why women were tested for HIV. At the time of testing, most women did not suspect that they were personally at risk for HIV infection. The main reasons for testing were investigation of symptoms or …

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