The lived experience of HIV positive immigrant African mothers in the UK: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Levitt, Deborah (2020) The lived experience of HIV positive immigrant African mothers in the UK: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


HIV positive immigrant African mothers living in the UK are likely to experience a decline in their mental and physical health. The women often encounter multiple challenges which need to be explored and understood to improve the health outcomes for themselves and their families.

The study aims to bridge the gap in the literature by exploring how Immigrant African mothers experience living with HIV in the UK.

A qualitative approach was used to generate in-depth data. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was chosen to explore the lived experience, focusing on a small, homogeneous cohort. Using semi-structured interviews, six accounts were recorded, transcribed and analysed for meaning and sense-making.

The analysis generated three main superordinate themes. These included ‘Quest for Survival’, ‘Impact of diagnosis on identity’, and “It’s there, but HIV is not me...”.
Superordinate themes encompass themes and sub-themes which are reflected in psychological theories and literature.

Implications of study findings:
The findings could help to develop specialist training for healthcare professionals around engaging these women and their families in early testing for HIV, adherence to treatment, and challenge stigma. This study might inform counselling psychologists about the background beliefs and cultural norms that influence these women when attending therapy and offers an insight into the areas of work that may need to be addressed therapeutically.

A further implication of this study was the importance of approaching African community leaders/elders around education for women who are living with HIV in the UK and addressing barriers to accessing healthcare.

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