Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Supervisor

Dr. William Fisher

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Treena Orchard

Joint Supervisor

Abstract

Youth and young adults living with HIV, between the ages of 15 and 29 represent one-quarter of the new infection rates in Canada, but little is known about the safer sex practices, HIV disclosure processes and coping mechanisms used by this important but often neglected group to manage the every day realities of living with HIV. The primary objectives of this study were to gather qualitative data about the lived experiences of Canadian youth who are living with HIV and enhance our understanding of their experiences of becoming HIV-positive, navigating issues related to safer sex and HIV disclosure, and managing life as someone living with HIV.

This research employed a phenomenological approach to data collection and analysis to understand the lived experiences of participants. This study utilized qualitative methods for data collection and analysis. Eighteen youth living with HIV (14 males, 3 females and 1 transgender female) between the ages of 22 and 29 were recruited for this study through AIDS Service Organizations in Ontario and British Columbia. Each participant engaged in an in-depth individual interview.

The findings from this study highlight four global themes that were representative of the lived experience of what it means to live with HIV for the youth in this study. Becoming HIV-Positive includes the participants’ perspectives regarding being diagnosed with HIV and the impact of finding out they are HIV-positive, which included isolation, depression and thoughts about suicide. Navigating HIV focuses on how the participants’ lives have changed since they found out they have HIV, including coming to terms with being HIV-positive, learning to negotiate dating and other relationships, and determining responsibility for condom use. HIV Disclosure Management features the participants’ experiences regarding the management of disclosing or not disclosing their HIV status within various relationships. Finding New Meaning in Life After HIV Diagnosis focused on how the participants have found or made new meaning in their lives since becoming HIV-positive, including transforming their lives, creating positive changes and future hopes. The findings from this study contribute new knowledge and provide us with a detailed understanding of the lives of youth living with HIV, beginning from when they found out their HIV status through to the many challenges associated with being HIV-positive, and the strategies they use to manage living with HIV.


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