The Significance of Sexuality and Intimacy in the Lives of Older African Americans With HIV/AIDS

Gerontologist. 2016 Aug;56(4):762-71. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu160. Epub 2015 Feb 3.


Purpose of the study: Aging and HIV/AIDS research focuses primarily on standardized clinical, social, and behavioral measures, leaving unanswered questions about how this chronic and stigmatizing condition affects life course expectations and the meaning of aging with the disease. Utilizing Gaylene Becker's (1997) life course disruption theory, we explored older African Americans' experiences of living with HIV/AIDS.

Design and methods: A purposive sample (N = 43) of seropositive African Americans aged 50 and older was selected from a parent study. Thirteen participants completed one semi-structured in-depth interview on life course expectations and experiences of living with HIV/AIDS. Interview transcripts were analyzed using standard qualitative coding and thematic analysis.

Results: Responding to broad, open-ended questions about the impact of HIV on life course expectations, participants emphasized how HIV limited their ability to experience sexuality and intimacy. Two major themes emerged, damaged sexuality and constrained intimacy.

Implications: Older African Americans' discussions of living with HIV focused on the importance of and the challenges to sexuality and intimacy. Researchers and clinicians should be attentive to significant and ongoing HIV-related challenges to sexuality and intimacy facing older African Americans living with HIV/AIDS.

Keywords: African Americans; HIV/AIDS; Life course; Qualitative research; Sexuality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexuality / psychology*
  • Social Stigma