Exploring the experiences of African-American women who have lived with HIV for many years can inform public health practice on how to better serve high-risk populations along the care continuum. To understand the experiences of African-American women who are HIV positive, the researchers used a narrative approach to guide repeat interviews. Under a theoretical framework of Womanism, we interviewed six African-American women ages 48-66 (M=57) who have lived with HIV for 10 years or longer and conducted analyses of narrative to identify key themes. The primary themes were: recollecting early hardships, HIV infection, and diagnosis; embracing social support; surviving and thriving; meaning making and HIV. The findings highlight the need for programs specific to long-term survivors, including resilience training, education programs on dating and disclosure, and opportunities to engage in meaningful work or volunteer initiatives.


HIV/AIDS, African American Women, Womanism, Narrative Inquiry, Analysis of Narrative

Author Bio(s)

Sabrina Cherry: I am an Assistant Professor in the Public Health program in the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences within the College of Health and Human Services at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. I worked for over 15 years within the field of public health and my professional experience started as a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia, West Africa. One of my major projects included partnering with leaders across the continent to focus on Gender and Development (GAD) initiatives aimed at helping young women and girls create sustainable income resources. As a public-health practitioner, I have collaborated on Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) for the Greater Atlanta Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and two rural Georgia hospitals; provided co-leadership on the expansion of the Community Outreach Program at Northside Hospital; provided technical assistance to faith-based, mini-grant recipients in Southwest Georgia; and worked on a food insecurity and medication adherence pilot study for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). My primary research interests are HIV and aging; HIV criminalization; and qualitative research. I earned a Master of Science Public Health (MSPH) degree from the University of South Carolina, a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) from Emory University, and a Doctorate of Public Health (DrPH), as a well as a Certificate in Interdisciplinary Qualitative Research, from the University of Georgia. In my spare time, I enjoy cycling, traveling, and spending time with my fur baby, Max. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: sabrinat.cherry@gmail.com.

Kathleen deMarrais: I came to the University of Georgia in 1999. Prior to moving to Georgia, I taught at Northern Arizona University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. From 1999-2004, I served as the coordinator of the Qualitative Research Program at the University of Georgia. From 2004-2009 I served as Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Education at the University of Georgia. I have a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from East Stroudsburg University and a master’s degree in Special Education from Xavier University in Cincinnati and worked in K-12 schools prior to moving into higher education. I enjoy life in rural Georgia where I raise chickens, garden, and volunteer in many community development efforts in Lexington. My research interests include the study of qualitative research methodology with particular interest in qualitative research design, ethnography, and interviewing approaches to research. Another area of interest is in the ways philanthropic foundations have shaped educational policies and practices in the United States.

Cheryl Keita: I am the VP of Organizational Development at Remita Health. I earned a Master’s of Public Health degree from Tulane University and Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences. My public health experience includes serving in leadership roles domestically and abroad.

Marsha Davis: I am the Associate Dean for Outreach within the Office of Outreach and Engagement and Professor of Health Promotion & Behavior at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health. My areas of expertise include: designing, implementing, and evaluating community-based health behavior programs; behavioral science theory; program evaluation; and measurement of health behaviors. My research interests are childhood obesity prevention; using the child as change agent for health promotion in families; and cross-site and within-site evaluation of community organizations promoting healthy eating and physical activity among children. I have a master’s degree from the Teachers College at Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Joel Lee: I am newly retired from the positions of Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the University of Georgia College of Public Health where I also served as Director of the Doctor of Public Health Program. I completed my Master of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health degrees in Health Services Administration and Organization at the University of Texas School of Public Health. I have served in a variety of academic positions in the formation of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, most recently as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Chair of the Department of Health Services Management, and Director of Doctoral Studies as well as director positions in the university's undergraduate and graduate degrees in health administration.

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