How Have Long-Term Survivors Coped With Living With HIV?

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Abstract

With advances in HIV treatment, more individuals have grown older with the disease. Little is known about factors that have helped these survivors manage everyday life with HIV. In this exploratory, qualitative study, we asked, “What has helped survivors cope with challenges of living long term with HIV?” Participants were recruited from a convenience sample of persons living with HIV who obtained treatment at a specialty HIV clinic; 16 long-term survivors of HIV were interviewed. Mean age was 50.13 (SD = 8.30) years; mean time from diagnosis was 16.75 (SD = 5.98) years. Results were broadly dichotomized as coping mechanisms and social supports. Three themes characterized coping mechanisms: disease coping, practical coping, and emotional coping. Social supports included themes of family, friends, professionals, peer groups, and pets. In particular, the power of patient–professional relationships and meanings derived from religion/spirituality were considered by a majority of participants to be influential factors.

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