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Title:HIV and AIDS, Disclosure, Stigma, and Social Support within Church Communities
Author(s):Bauer, Erica D.
Director of Research:Brashers, Dale E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Caughlin, John P.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Brashers, Dale E.; Dixon, Travis L.; Harvey, Idethia S.; Huhman, Marian
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Social Support
Church Communities
Grounded Theory
Abstract:For most, an HIV or AIDS diagnosis is difficult to manage without social support and healthy coping strategies. Churches are one place to which people living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHA) may turn for supportive resources. Churches are located in virtually every town in the United States, with many providing resources for the marginalized within their communities; however, resources for PLWHA are not as common. PLWHA also may avoid churches due to the stigma often associated with HIV or AIDS within these communities. Little currently is known about the relationship between church communities and PLWHA. Even less is known about the relationship between HIV or AIDS, disclosure, stigma, and social support within these communities. Three issues were explored in this study–the stigmatizing experiences of PLWHA within church communities; the influence of HIV and AIDS stigma on disclosure behaviors within these communities; and the role that these communities, as well as their belief systems, play in the daily lives of individuals living with HIV or AIDS in terms of social support. This study was designed to assess the perspectives of PLWHA (n = 21), as well as the perspectives of church members (n = 21) not infected with HIV or AIDS. A qualitative approach consisting of interviews with these individuals was employed for data collection. The interviews focused on stigmatizing experiences and disclosure behaviors of PLWHA, the role of religious faith in the lives of people with these illnesses, and the barriers to increasing churches’ roles in providing social support. The interviews were transcribed and coded for themes related to the proposed research questions. These data provide key insights into using churches to improve the quality of life for PLWHA by providing supportive resources. The church is an organization positioned well to address these needs with its global presence and universal mission of serving others; however, identifying the barriers to support increases our understanding of how to execute such an approach successfully. The themes that emerged during the analysis revealed that PLWHA generally perceived churches as sources of support. Supportive messages about HIV or AIDS increased the likelihood that people affected by the virus would seek support through disclosure. Increased disclosure resulted in greater access to supportive resources available within churches. Unsupportive messages communicated by church organizations about HIV or AIDS, however, decreased the likelihood of disclosure among those affected by the virus. Decreased disclosure resulted in less access to supportive resources made available through churches. Improving their communication of support, or enacting support, is one way for churches to address these unsupportive messages. Participants identified a number of strategies for enacting support. Employing strategies to enact support for PLWHA will improve the identity of churches in relation to HIV and AIDS, increasing the likelihood that people affected by these illnesses will seek support through disclosure to gain access to the supportive resources available within church communities.
Issue Date:2011-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Erica D. Bauer
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-01-21
Date Deposited:2010-12

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