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J Health Commun. 2000;5 Suppl:47-59.

Coping in cyberspace: the impact of Internet use on the ability of HIV-positive individuals to deal with their illness.

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  • 1University of Georgia, College of Education, Department of Counseling and Human Development Services, Athens, GA 30602-7142, USA.


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) poses one of the greatest health threats of modern times. The Internet provides unparalleled access to resources that can assist individuals coping with HIV infection. Despite the promise of online resources to help individuals manage and cope with their illness, few studies have investigated the impact of their use. Those that have looked primarily at Internet use from a group perspective. These studies were usually "bounded" as well, focusing on electronic support groups or highly structured computer-based support systems that offer select users prescribed resource options. Little is known about how individuals who are "on their own"--without access to these services--use the vast, unstructured array of resources available through the Internet. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of Internet use on the coping ability of HIV-positive individuals. This research study employed a descriptive qualitative design that used indepth, semi structured, face-to-face interviews for data collection. The sample of 10 purposefully selected HIV-positive individuals reflected diversity in gender, age, race, education, employment, number of years living with HIV, and Internet use. Data analysis guided by the constant comparative method revealed that the impact of Internet use on coping ability involved three themes: The Internet promotes empowerment, augments social support, and facilitates helping others.

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