Taking it one day at a time: African American women aging with HIV and co-morbidities

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2014 Jul;28(7):372-80. doi: 10.1089/apc.2014.0024. Epub 2014 Jun 16.


Self-managing HIV/AIDS presents challenges for anyone infected. These challenges may be further complicated for older HIV-infected African American women who acquired the disease at younger ages and now have co-morbidities. Little is known regarding how women's age identity, social responsibilities, co-morbidities, and romantic relationship status influence their HIV self-management. Five focus groups were conducted in Washington DC, with HIV-positive African American women aged 52-65. Topics included HIV and co-morbidity self-management, social support needs, medication adherence, and future plans for old age. A constant comparison approach was applied during data analysis. Co-morbidities, including diabetes and hypertension, were perceived to be more difficult to self-manage than HIV. This difficulty was not attributed to aging but to daily struggles such as lack of income and/or health insurance, an inflexible work schedule, and loneliness. Social responsibilities, including caring for family, positively impacted participants' ability to self-manage HIV by serving as motivation to stay healthy in order to continue to help family members. In contrast, inflexible work schedules negatively impacted women's ability to sustain medication adherence. Overall, this study demonstrates that HIV and co-morbidity self-management are inextricably linked. We can no longer afford to view engagement in HIV care as a single-disease issue and hope to attain optimal health and well-being in our HIV-affected populations. Optimal HIV self-management must be framed within a larger context that simultaneously addresses HIV and co-morbidities, while considering how social and cultural factors uniquely intersect to influence older African American women's self-management strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity
  • District of Columbia / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / ethnology*
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Care / psychology*
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors