Limited research has examined the mental health of women living with HIV and AIDS in low and middle income countries such as India. This exploratory study examined distress and coping among twenty HIV positive women in rural southern India. Focus groups were conducted in Tamil, and coded for thematic content. Women were asked about hardships, support from the community, and preferred forms of coping. Several themes emerged including: social and familial rejection; difficulty meeting basic needs; concerns for the future of children; and interest in helping others in similar circumstances. Participants highlighted the importance of medication adherence and social support in maintaining physical and mental wellbeing. Future research should investigate these themes in a larger sample of HIV positive women in the region using mixed methods. Intervention strategies should also be explored to reduce HIV stigma, and increase community acceptance and social support for individuals struggling with HIV-related social exclusion.
Key words: HIV and AIDS, India, mental health, women, stigma, coping.