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Coping strategies among HIV+ Latina and African American women in the inner-city: Ethnic and generational differences

Pushpinder Pelia Lubana, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This is a study of the social, cultural, political, and economic factors that shape the experience of HIV infection among a group of Latina and African American women living in the inner-city. By focusing on women's goals, the coping strategies and behaviors they adopt, and their perception of inner-city barriers the attempt is to delineate the broader interconnections between poverty, stress, disease, and coping among minority groups. A sample of 87 HIV+ Latina and African American women living in Hartford (CT) were interviewed. The research methods included semi-structured interviews, case study interviews, and ethnographic observations. With the majority of participants being single, unemployed, welfare-dependent, and living far below the poverty line, being infected compounded the economic marginalization they were experiencing. The contextualization of participants' lives within the inner-city revealed the synergistic presence of drug use, violence, poverty, and HIV/AIDS. After an HIV diagnosis, women described a process consisting of an initial phase of escalated drug use which was most often followed by a resolution to quit drugs. In coping with HIV/AIDS, women articulated goals and strategies that centered around reunification with their children and quitting drugs. But in attempting to achieve some of their goals, women were faced with a multitude of inner-city barriers. Foremost among them were the lack of money and the temptation to use drugs in neighborhoods replete with drug-distribution. Women utilized the coping resources at their disposal, namely religion, perceived support, self-esteem, and the support derived from partners. Important ethnic and generational differences were revealed in women's use of these coping resources, with African American women relying more on religion, perceiving and actually receiving more support, and having higher self-esteem, compared to the Latinas. Overall, women regarded their partners as the most important source of HIV-related emotional support. But in seeking this support, it became obvious that women's psychological and physical health was compromised because of the partner's drug use, violent behavior, and oftentimes HIV+ status. Finally, by focusing on women's access and experience with existing health and social services, it was clear that the nexus of class, gender, and minority status produced daily injustices that undoubtedly exacerbated women's HIV-related ill-health.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Physical anthropology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Lubana, Pushpinder Pelia, "Coping strategies among HIV+ Latina and African American women in the inner-city: Ethnic and generational differences" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9920625.