The lived experience of an HIV diagnosis
(2013) The lived experience of an HIV diagnosis, no. 79.
Previously, researchers have explored theoretical constructions of stigma, the lived experiences of stigma amongst people living with HIV, the management of the decision to disclose an HIV diagnosis, as well as the adjustments that people make in relation to safer sex and having children following an HIV diagnosis. However, no research has encompassed all of these themes. If the lived experience of an HIV diagnosis is to be understood holistically, research must seek to explore how the characteristics of these issues overlap and together determine the lived experience of an HIV diagnosis. In addition to this, much of this research has been conducted in mainly African countries and so then, however useful, is often culturally specific to these populations. Therefore, the purpose of the current research project was to explore the subjective lived experiences of an HIV diagnosis for people living with HIV in the central belt of Scotland. The current research was underpinned by the theoretical perspectives of symbolic interactionism and phenomenology. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to fully explore three main issues; stigma, disclosure and adjustments necessary following an HIV diagnosis and the implications of these, with particular reference to practicing safer sex and decisions about having children. Data gathered suggests that HIV remains misunderstood by society and that stigma is experienced by those who live with HIV, whether directly or otherwise. Although participants appear comfortable with their disclosure decisions, the issue of disclosure was cited as a source of distress by participants. Furthermore, participants adjust their desire to have a family as a result of an HIV diagnosis, but rather considered ways to do so without risking transmission of the HIV virus.