The Use of Survival Stories to Empower HIV + Women of Color
Emmerentie Oliphant, Nancy Young, Nancy Amodei, Veronica A. Villela-Perez, Ricka Mammah, Victor F. German, Paul Meissner

Survival stories are a narrative approach which involves understanding the stories of people’s lives and recognizing the strength that can be achieved by the narrator in telling and re-telling these stories. This article reports on the use of a narrative approach to describe the common experiences faced by a group of minority lowincome women living with HIV in two Texas communities. Survival stories were analyzed to identify patterns of survival based on themes or trends in the data. Specific categories and subcategories were identified: Support systems (family members, significant others, friends, other support systems), inner strengths, history of survival, skills specific to survival, quality of life (emotional well-being, social well-being, spiritual well-being), emotions specific to HIV status (anger, frustration, ambivalence in emotions), parenting issues, mental health issues (depression, suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, substance abuse), rural issues, urban issues, healing (hope, future perspective, motivation to change), medical adherence, barriers/challenges, care coordination (support provided by staff, peer navigators, motivation to change). Survival stories can: a) provide information on how women survive difficulties and challenges in life; b) be used to empower women and to enhance behavior change; and c) be useful to evaluate local efforts to retain women in care. Practice and research implications are also discussed.

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