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Exploring Stigma Experience and Coping Strategies Among Women Living with HIV/AIDS in China: A Phenomenological Study.

PURPOSE: As of the end of 2022, over 20 million women worldwide, aged 15 and above, are living with HIV. Stigma remains a formidable barrier for women living with HIV/AIDS, hindering their access to healthcare and exacerbating health disparities. Indeed, some women living with HIV/AIDS can successfully confront and overcome stigma. There remains a paucity of qualitative research exploring the stigma coping strategies of women living with HIV/AIDS in China. This study was aimed to gain the deeper understanding of stigma experienced by women living with HIV/AIDS and coping strategies.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We recruited diverse participants using snowball sampling and purposive sampling. Semi-structured personal in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 women living with HIV/AIDS from December 2022 to June 2023. The samples were from four HIV/AIDS designated hospitals. The data were analyzed using the Colaizzi seven-step model.

RESULTS: The experiences of stigma among women living with HIV/AIDS included family role (wife/mother/grandmother) collapse and disgusted by family, resignation in being shunned by others, helplessness due to social exclusion, grief at being devaluated, and resentment for experiencing injustice. The coping strategies used to deal with stigma included concealing their conditions, avoiding socialization, and attempting to retaliate against society.

CONCLUSION: Healthcare professionals are recommended to offer women living with HIV/AIDS effective emotional support and guidance to cope with stigma. The study highlights the stigma they face, providing valuable evidence for policymakers. Recommendations emphasize the importance of developing services addressing both physical and psychological needs of women living with HIV/AIDS.

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