Sexuality and considering motherhood after an HIV diagnosis : an IPA exploration of the experiences of European, childless women

Biggs, Melissa (2015) Sexuality and considering motherhood after an HIV diagnosis : an IPA exploration of the experiences of European, childless women. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Research in the field of HIV acknowledges the existence of social constructs, including the incongruity between HIV, motherhood and sexuality, which may add to the psychosocial burden of an HIV diagnosis (Blystad and Moland, 2009; Long, 2006; Stinon & Myer, 2012). However the research is fragmented, and addresses the concepts of motherhood and sexuality in the presence of HIV independently. There has been little consideration of how the opposing constructs may be simultaneously experienced and negotiated by positive woman. Additionally existing research focuses on pregnant women or mothers, it does not explore the impact of an HIV diagnosis before entering into motherhood. Despite adopting a philosophy of holism and valuing the creation of environments that sustain mental well-being, Counselling Psychology literature is relatively silent on women’s adaptation to HIV. This qualitative study explores how European, childless women who have been historically underrepresented in the literature experience sexuality, and feelings of motherhood following an HIV-diagnosis. Interpretative phenomenological analysis of five women’s experiences produced superordinate themes of, ‘The even worse than undateable woman’, ‘Nothing can spark my sexuality’ and ‘You have to adapt…I owe it something’. The women speak of experiencing a continued psychological impact of an HIV-diagnosis, despite the advances in medication, which precipitates multiple psychosocial crises related to sexuality, identity, femininity and concepts of motherhood. There is a dominant experience of distress, confirming previous research on HIV-trauma. However there are also experiences of resistance, successful negotiation, and personal growth. Clinical implications are discussed in light of counselling psychology’s multidisciplinary approach, including therapeutic recommendations to explore and challenge women’s definitions of sexuality, femininity and motherhood.

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