Date

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Counseling Psychology

First Adviser

Caskie, Grace I. L.

Other advisers/committee members

Woodhouse, Susan; Liang, Christopher; Tsong, Yuying

Abstract

People living with HIV or as AIDS defined (PLWHA) may experience significant physical and metabolic alterations (i.e., lipodystrophy syndrome) as a side effect of HIV medications (i.e., Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) leading to profound transformations in body image (Collins et al., 2000). Despite the significant percentage of racial/ethnic minority heterosexual men living with HIV or as AIDS defined (REHMHA) both in the United States and globally and the known adverse effects of HAART on the body, the body image experiences of REHMHA have been unaccounted for in quantitative or qualitative research. The present study conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with 21 REHMHA using open-ended questions and prompts conceptualized according to three domains thought to be important to body image—the perceptual, the behavioral, and the subjective (Thompson, 1990). In addition, the participants filled out a demographic questionnaire, body image questionnaire, and Perception of Lipodystrophy Scale (PLS). Ninety-five percent of participants reported perceived lipodystrophic alterations on the PLS with fat accumulation in the abdomen and face. Analysis of semi-structured interviews was conducted using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). IPA revealed three super-ordinate themes or main areas of concern to REHMHA’s understanding of body image— “describing the valued and devalued body;” “losing and gaining control” and “navigating social dimensions of visibility and invisibility.” The results suggest that intrapersonal, interpersonal, and social experience of HIV or AIDS defined status and HAART-related physical transformations are important aspects of how REHMHA understand and explore their body images.

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