Challenging Lifestyles: Aboriginal Men and Women Living with HIV





The Aboriginal people of Canada are over-represented in the HIV and AIDS statistics, compared with the rest of the population. A participatory action research study was conducted in Alberta, Canada to examine the experiences of HIV-positive Aboriginal individuals in the period following diagnosis. The goals of the study were to identify factors that limited or enhanced risky behaviours, and to develop and implement an intervention to promote healthier lifestyles for Aboriginal persons living with HIV/AIDS (APHAs).Thirty-one Aboriginal men and women participated in the study. Receiving and adapting to a positive HIV diagnosis was a difficult process for most participants, and resulted in a number of potentially harmful behaviours and painful emotions. Gradually, most participants accepted the diagnosis and found ways to take better care of themselves. Nevertheless, they faced ongoing challenges, including stigma and discrimination, coping with histories of abuse, and confidentiality concerns. The intervention included the development and presentation of a skills-building workshop for individuals living with HIV, some of whom were study participants. In addition, members of the team visited several communities in Alberta to discuss the findings and the most appropriate strategies to assist individuals living with HIV to adopt healthier lifestyles.

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