HIV disclosure decisions and social support among African-American women in Houston, Texas

Karyn J Kirkendoll, The University of Texas School of Public Health


African Americans make up 12.3% of the population but account for over half of the new HIV cases and 39% of the AIDS cases in 2003 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2003). African American women in particular accounted for 64% of these cases of HIV and 60% of the AIDS cases (Leigh & Huff, 2003). This study contributed to the knowledge about the disclosure process of women living with HIV/AIDS by documenting the relationship between social support and the disclosure process in the African American HIV/AIDS population. The study aims were to: (1) discuss the participants' self concept of support; (2) describe the common characteristics of the disclosure process; and (3) evaluate the common characteristics of support sought in a potential disclosure source. The ethnographic qualitative methodology was utilized to elicit participant narratives of HIV disclosure and social support. The researcher utilized a key informant interview methodology building on existing social and organizational relationships (Krueger, 1994) to gain access to the population. Semi-structured interviews are a widely used and accepted qualitative research method for use with hard to reach populations and sensitive topics. Ten participants completed a 45 to 60 minute, one on one semi-structured interview covering social support and disclosure variables. Inclusion and exclusion criteria included: (1) self identified as a person living with HIV/AIDS; (2) African American); (3) female; (4) age 18-64 years old, (5) residence in Houston or surrounding counties. Themes generated from the interviews were (1) nondisclosure, (2) experiences with disclosure, (3) timing, (4) disclosure sources, and (5) coping. The themes suggest African American women living with HIV/AIDS come from different lifestyles but share similar experiences. Women utilize different strategies such as deciphering whom to trust and determining how much information to divulge in order to protect themselves or others. Although the sample group was small for this study, the results inform us about the various experiences each woman goes through as it relates to social support and disclosure and that each woman has to customize her response to the type of support she is receiving and her personal attitude about her disease.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Kirkendoll, Karyn J, "HIV disclosure decisions and social support among African-American women in Houston, Texas" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1470297.