Limited research has focused on the mental health of HIV-infected women in resource poor settings such as rural India. This study attempts to fill this gap in the literature, through conducting standardized interviews with 20 HIV-infected women in rural, Southern India. Variables of interest included trauma exposure, mental health symptoms, shame, guilt, social support, negative social reactions, coping, and HIV knowledge. Results indicate most women experienced HIV-related stigma in the form of negative social reactions, and limited social support. Many reported a history of interpersonal violence, and moderate to severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression. Feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame were significantly correlated with mental health symptoms. Seeking comfort in religion, such as engaging in meditation or prayer, was a preferred strategy for coping with HIV-infection. Despite the small sample size, this exploratory study provides important information about the challenges facing women living with HIV in settings where HIV is highly stigmatized. Future research should examine predictors of mental health outcomes in a larger sample, and evaluate the efficacy of interventions designed to reduce negative social reactions, shame, and self-blame, and increase social support.
Key words: HIV stigma, social support, mental health, shame, India.
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