Positive coping strategies and HIV-related stigma in south India

Shuba Kumar, Rani Mohanraj, Deepa Rao, Katherine R Murray, Lisa E Manhart
AIDS Patient Care and STDs 2015, 29 (3): 157-63
Whether perceived or enacted, HIV-related stigma is widespread in India, and has had a crippling effect on People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). Research has shown that a positive attitude towards the illness sets a proactive framework for the individual to cope with his or her infection; therefore, healthy coping mechanisms are essential to combat HIV-related stigma. This qualitative study involving in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with PLHA affiliated with HIV support groups in South India explored positive coping strategies employed by PLHA to deal with HIV-related stigma. Interviews and focus group discussions were translated, transcribed, and analyzed for consistent themes. Taboos surrounding modes of transmission, perceiving sex workers as responsible for the spread of HIV, and avoiding associating with PLHA provided the context of HIV-related stigma. Despite these challenges, PLHA used several positive strategies, classified as Clear Knowledge and Understanding of HIV, Social Support and Family Well-Being, Selective Disclosure, Employment Building Confidence, and Participation in Positive Networks. Poor understanding of HIV and fears of being labeled immoral undermined healthy coping behavior, while improved understanding, affiliation with support groups, family support, presence of children, and financial independence enhanced PLHA confidence. Such positive coping behaviours could inform culturally relevant interventions.

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