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J Urban Health. 2006 Nov;83(6):1168-82.

Spirituality, coping, and HIV risk and prevention in a sample of severely mentally ill Puerto Rican women.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Center for Minority Public Health, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-4945, USA.


Hispanics have been disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Although HIV risk is significantly elevated among severely mentally ill persons (SMI), the risk of infection appears to be even greater among those SMI who are Hispanic, reflecting the increased risk of HIV among Hispanics. We report on findings from the first 41 participants in a qualitative study examining the context of HIV risk and risk reduction strategies among severely mentally ill Puerto Rican women residents in northeastern Ohio. Individuals participated in a baseline interview, two follow-up interviews, and up to 100 hours of shadowing. Interviews and shadowing activities were recorded and analyzed using a grounded theory. The majority of individuals reported using identification with a religious faith. A large proportion of the participants reported that their religious or spiritual beliefs were critical to their coping, had influenced them to reduce risk, and/or provided them with needed social support. Several participants also reported having experienced rejection from their faith communities. The emphasis on spirituality among Puerto Rican SMI is consistent with previous research demonstrating the importance of spirituality in the Hispanic culture and reliance on spiritual beliefs as a mean of coping among SMI. Our results support the incorporation of spiritual beliefs into secular HIV prevention efforts.

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