Family Relations in the Context of HIV/AIDS in Southwest China


In China, an estimated 780,000 people have been infected with HIV (China AIDS, 2012 China AIDS. (2012). Response progress report: Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China. ). Even as this stigmatized population rapidly grows, with the majority of reproductive age (20–40 years old), information about their daily experiences in the domestic sphere has been scarce. Because the family remains a central unit of social and ethical organization in China, the current qualitative study examines family relations among people living with HIV (PLWH) with the goal of identifying the effect of HIV on family relations and, conversely, the effect of family relations on those with HIV. We analyzed data from 90 in-depth interviews with PLWH and people around them (i.e., their children, health care providers, other community members) in southwest China (Guangxi province). Through analyzing the families’ experiences with illness, three themes emerged: how individuals with HIV interact with their community; how they cope with stigma alongside and against their family; and how families can support those with HIV. Our data ultimately showed the critical role of family in the quality of PLWH’s well-being. Because concealment of their serostatus was the primary coping strategy, stigma manifestation was most obvious in the domestic spheres. Yet, when help was received, PLWH regarded family support as the most helpful, as those who received empathy from their families remained more optimistic. Thus, there is an urgent need for developing efficacious intervention programs that could lead to maximize family support, involving the families of PLWH, with a particular attention to family dynamics in daily interactions. Despite our awareness of the significance of family in China, this study reveals a particular kind of role of family that has rarely been considered, namely the role of family in healing and sustaining social bonds within the context of stigmatization, when those bonds might otherwise be broken.

Yu, Y.J., Li, X., Qiao, S., & Zhou, Y. 2016. Family Relations in the Context of HIV/AIDS in Southwest China. AIDS Care 28(10):1261-1268.

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