ABSTRACT: We explored how community responses to HIV contribute to distress in African Americans living with HIV in the rural South of the United States. We listened to the voices of community members through focus groups and African Americans with HIV through interviews. Community avoidance of HIV, negative views of HIV, and discriminatory behavior powerfully affected the distress of people living with HIV (PLWH). Ongoing distress, coupled with limited support, led to a life in which many PLWH endured their pain in silence and experienced profound loneliness. We conceptualized their experiences as socioemotional suffering--the hidden emotional burden and inner distress of not only living with HIV, a complex serious illness, but also with the societal attitudes and behaviors that are imposed on the illness and on PLWH. To improve the quality of life and health of PLWH, we cannot focus solely on the individual, but must also focus on the local community and society as a whole.
Qualitative Health Research 11/2010; 21(4):489-501. · 2.19 Impact Factor