Cognitive representations of AIDS: a phenomenological study

Qual Health Res. 2002 Dec;12(10):1338-52. doi: 10.1177/1049732302238747.


Cognitive representations of illness determine behavior. How persons living with AIDS image their disease might be key to understanding medication adherence and other health behaviors. The authors' purpose was to describe AIDS patients' cognitive representations of their illness. A purposive sample of 58 men and women with AIDS were interviewed. Using Colaizzi's (1978) phenomenological method, rigor was established through application of verification, validation, and validity. From 175 significant statements, 11 themes emerged. Cognitive representations included imaging AIDS as death, bodily destruction, and just a disease. Coping focused on wiping AIDS out of the mind, hoping for the right drug, and caring for oneself. Inquiring about a patient's image of AIDS might help nurses assess coping processes and enhance nurse-patient relationships.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Concept
  • Sick Role*
  • United States