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'Dying From' to 'Living With': Framing Institutions and the Coping Processes of African American Women Living with HIV/AIDS (WP-12-01)

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, LaShawnDa Pittman-Gay, and Jean Beaman

How do HIV-positive individuals transition from believing and behaving as though they have a “death sentence” to interpreting and coping with HIV as a chronic but manageable illness? Using interview data collected from 30 HIV-positive African American women, this working paper reveals how and why interactions with nonprofit and government institutions help to explain variation between those who thrive and those who do not following an HIV diagnosis. The researchers argue that “framing institutions” shape the form and tenor of coping trajectories by offering initial information about one’s HIV status, a conceptual framework for understanding what it means to have HIV, language to talk about one’s condition, and resources to begin restructuring one’s life in the wake of a diagnosis. Ultimately, the researchers highlight how a diverse array of nonprofit and government institutions not only play a critical part in helping women cope with HIV, but also renegotiate their self-conceptions as black women in the wake of receiving another stigmatizing social marker. In short, organizational ties shape women’s movement from beliefs and behaviors that suggest that they are “dying from” this disease to attitudes and actions consistent with the notion that they can “live with” HIV.

This working paper has been published as:
Watkins-Hayes, C., L. Pittman-Gay, and J. Beaman. 2012. 'Dying from' to 'living with': Framing institutions and the coping processes of African American women living with HIV/AIDS. Social Science & Medicine 74(12): 2028-36.

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Associate Professor, Sociology and African American Studies, and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

LaShawnDa Pittman-Gay, Postdoctoral Fellow, National Poverty Center

Jean Beaman, Postdoctoral fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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