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A phenomenological study of aging with HIV/AIDS: In the words of those who really know

Jodi Lynn McQuillen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Within the last decade, the prevalence and incidence of individuals over the age of 50 living with HIV/AIDS has increased in the United States. This population of longterm survivors, and those diagnosed later in life, is expected to increase. Scholarly literature suggests that knowledge of the lived experiences of this population is lacking and that programs and policies are often deficient in meeting the biopsychosocial needs of this emerging population. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the subjective lived experiences of older Americans who have a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS in order to understand their biopsychosocial needs and what meaning they ascribe to their experiences of aging with these diagnoses. The voluntary participants (n = 26) were aged 50 or above who self-reported a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. Data from semi-structured interviews were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. With the use of in-vivo coding, patterns of meaning within and across participants' responses revealed three major themes and the application of one gerontological theory. The first theme, Choices & Decisions, indicated participants' conscious choices surrounding treatment options, disclosure, and making life-style decisions. The second theme, Information & Understanding, reflected participants' understanding of their diagnoses and treatment options, their perception of the public and professional sectors' knowledge of these diagnoses, and their personal sense of self-knowledge. The final theme, Purpose, revealed participants' understanding of the purpose of their lives, including the spiritual purposes of their lived experiences. The findings also illuminated the potential application of McAdams' theory of generativity which focuses on older adults' life narratives and how they use them to make sense of, and ascribe meaning to, their lives. Implications from these findings are useful across disciplines that work with HIV/AIDS education and prevention, social welfare policy, and direct services that impact the lives of older Americans who have a diagnosis of HIV/ AIDS. Finally, continued research is needed as this a growing and continually changing population.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Social work|Public health

Recommended Citation

McQuillen, Jodi Lynn, "A phenomenological study of aging with HIV/AIDS: In the words of those who really know" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3666981.