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THE IMPACT OF SPIRITUALITY ON THE COPING STRATEGIES AND QUALITY OF LIFE AMONG AFRICAN-CANADIAN WOMEN LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS IN ONTARIO - IMPLICATIONS FOR PROGRAM DESIGN
Background: In the mid-1990s, medical advances dramatically altered the psychosocial experiences of women living with HIV/AIDS. Anecdotally, spiritual practices seemed to significantly influenced the quality of life and coping strategies among these women yet this area is highly understudied.
Methods: This qualitative study examined African and European-Canadian women living with HIV/AIDS in Ontario to determine: a) the impact of spirituality on coping strategies and quality of life, and b) proactive strategies for improving that quality of life. The research involved gathering life history from 5 PLWHA women, using a community based participatory approaches. Purposive and snowball-sampling procedures were used to identify the participants who were between ages 16-65. Questionnaire and journal notes were the main sources of data. Responses of participants were coded and analyzed with NVIVO in relation to the ecological framework of psychology.
Results: Participants demonstrated remarkable strengths in confronting their psychosocial challenges. The study showed how the women managed and balanced their internalized stigma, developing personal inner strengths and exclusion with their survival strategies such as prayer. The thematic analysis indicated that despite the existing medical, governmental and community support, women living with HIV/AIDS nevertheless faced numerous daily psychosocial challenges. The women also lacked of adequate or appropriate support from healthcare professionals and psychologists.
Conclusion: An important outcome of the study is the transferability of the strengths and coping strategies of these women as a model for other women with HIV/AIDS in Africa and the world at large. The study revealed that there is the need to strengthen the capacity, resilience and leadership programs of women living with HIV/AIDS in Ontario. Programs and policy makers need to support the personal coping strategies of women living with HIV/AIDS. Findings have conceptual and methodological implications for future spirituality research among on women living with HIV/AIDS.