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Womens Health Issues. 2012 Jan-Feb;22(1):e27-33. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2011.05.010. Epub 2011 Jul 28.

The relationship between social roles and self-management behavior in women living with HIV/AIDS.

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Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-4904, USA.



The social roles that women perform can be complicated and may affect their health. While there is some evidence describing traditional social roles of women, there is little evidence exploring the impact of those roles on how a woman manages a chronic condition. The purpose of this paper is to identify and examine the main social roles of 48 HIV infected women, and to explore how these roles relate to their self-management of HIV/AIDS.


Forty-eight HIV infected, adult women were recruited from HIV clinics and AIDS service organizations in Northeast Ohio. All participants participated in one of 12 digitially recorded focus groups. All data were analyzed using qualitative description methodology.


The participants were predominantly middle-aged (mean = 42 years), African American (69%), and single (58%). Analysis revealed six social roles that these women experience and which affect their self-management. These social roles are: Mother/Grandmother, Believer, Advocate, Stigmatized Patient, Pet Owner, and Employee. These roles had both a positive and negative effect on a woman's self-management of her HIV disease and varied by age and time living with HIV.


Women living with HIV/AIDS struggle to manage the many daily tasks required to live well with this disease. The social context in which this self-management happens is important, and the various social roles that women perform can facilitate or hinder them from completing these tasks. Healthcare and social service providers should learn about these roles in their individual patients, particularly how these roles can be developed to increase HIV/AIDS self-management.

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