Experiences and coping strategies of women living with HIV/AIDS diagnosis : a case study of Maseru, Lesotho

Diaho, Mahlao Judith (2004-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Several studies have reported that thirty million people are living with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Fifty percent of the infected adults are women aged between 15 and 49 years. In Lesotho, HIV/AIDS has also been declared a national emergency and an estimated 180,000 women out of 330,000 adults, and 27,000 children are living with HIV/AIDS. Statistics have shown that the majority of AIDS cases occur in adults aged 15 and 49 years in Lesotho. Presently women are the fastest growing infected population in Lesotho. Regardless of the growing numbers of women infected with HIV/AIDS, experiences of women living with HIV/AIDS have received little attention in Lesotho. Qualitative research in this area is necessary to gain access to women's perceptions of their HIV positive status. In this study, the experiences and coping strategies of Basotho women living with HIV/AIDS were investigated. The study used a feminist approach to research. Feminist research stresses the multiplicity of knowledge and it is useful to understand the subjective experiences of women. Indepth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with five women ranging between 29 and 46 years, purposefully drawn from Positive Action Society Lesotho (PASL). Grounded theory was used to analyse the data. Findings indicate that women's risk for exposure to HIV is related to their ability to protect themselves by negotiating a safe sexual relationship. Women who feel powerless in their relationships are less likely to protect themselves against HIVexposure. These perceptions of powerlessness are the result of a broad array of experiences that may include exposure to gender-based violence and restricted economic opportunities. The results show that it is common for women to be shocked, depressed, and discouraged when they find that they are living with HIV/AIDS as can be expected. It is also difficult for women to disclose their HIV positive status to family, friends and community members because of stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. Participants developed different ways of coping with their status such as religion, healthy life style, AIDS counselling and social networks. There was a profound sense of anxiety about the future care of children. The study concludes with a number of recommendations to promote an environment that will make it possible for women living with HIV/AIDS to cope with their illness.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Studies het bevind dat daar ongeveer dertig miljoen mense in sub-Sahara Afrika is wat met MIVNIGS leef. Vyftig persent van geinfekteerde volwassenes is vroue tussen die ouderdom van 15-49 jaar. In Lesotho is MIVNIGS as 'n nasionale ramp verklaar en daar word beraam dat 330,000 volwassenes, 180,000 vroue en 27,000 kinders MIVNIGS het. Statistiek het ook getoon dat die meerderheid VIGS gevalle in Lesotho voorkom by volwassenes in die ouderdomsgroep 15-49 jaar. Vroue is tans die vinnigste groeiende groep. Ten spyte van die groeiende getalle vroue wat met MIVNIGS geinfekteer is, het die ervaringe van vroue in Lesotho wat met MIVNIGS saamleef tot dusver relatief min aandag geniet. Kwalitatiewe navorsing in hierdie verband is nodig om toegang tot vroue se persepsies te verkry rakende hul eie MIV positiewe status. In hierdie studie is die ervaringe en hanteringsmeganismes van Basoetoe vroue wat MIVNIGS het, ondersoek. Die studie het 'n feministiese benadering gebruik, wat die multiplisiteit van kennis en die subjektiewe ervaringe van vroue beklemtoon. In-diepte aangesig-tot-aangesig onderhoude is met vroue tussen 29-46 jaar gevoer. Gegronde teorie is gebruik om die data te analiseer. Bevindinge dui aan dat vroue se risiko vir blootstelling aan MIV verband hou met hul vermoë om hulself te beskerm deur te onderhandel vir 'n veilige seksuele verhouding met 'n maat. Vroue wat magteloos in hul verhoudings voel, is waarskynlik minder suksesvol om hulself teen MIV blootstelling te beskerm. Hierdie persepsies van magteloosheid is die resultaat van 'n breë spektrum ervaringe wat sekondêre status, blootstelling aan geweld, en beperkte ekonomiese geleenthede insluit. Soos wat verwag word, toon die bevindinge dat dit algemeen vir vroue is om geskok, deppressief en ontmoedig te wees wanneer hulle uitvind dat hul MIVNIGS het. Dit is ook moeilik vir vroue om hul MIV status aan familie, vriende en gemeenskapslede bekend te maak weens die stigma wat aan MIVNIGS kleef. Respondente het verskeie wyses ontwikkelom hul status te hanteer, soos godsdiens, 'n gesonde leefstyl, VIGS raadgewing en sosiale netwerke. Daar was ook 'n intense bekommernis by vroue oor die toekomstige sorg vir hul kinders. Die studie sluit af met 'n aantal aanbevelings om 'n omgewing te promoveer wat dit vir vroue wat met MIVNIGS leef moontlik sal maak om hul siekte te hanteer.

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