Faculty Publications and Other Works -- Nursing


Issues of Women Dually Diagnosed with HIV Infection and Substance Use Problems in the Carolinas

Source Publication

Issues in Mental Health Nursing

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2001


A growing number of women are being dually diagnosed with HIV infection and substance use problems. Forty-two percent of all women diagnosed with AIDS have been infected through injection drug use. Many more women with HIV are exposed to non-intravenous drugs that potentially affect their quality of life and illness experience. This study sought to identify from the perspective of women factors that most influenced their ability to obtain treatment for their HIV infection and control their substance use. A focus group approach was used for data collection. Twenty-five HIV-infected women participated in one of four focus groups. Women were asked to identify and discuss their concerns and needs related to HIV/AIDS and substance use. Twenty-four women were African-American; one was white. All the women reside in South Carolina or North Carolina. Each focus group session was audiotaped and transcribed. Content analysis, following Krippendorff ’s (1980) methodology, was used to analyze the data. Five themes emerged: 1) AIDS as a life-altering event; 2) spirituality; 3) mental health issues; 4) barriers to health care services; and 5) environmental influences. It was concluded that the coexistence of HIV and substance abuse adds to the complexity of women’s treatment needs. For these women, an HIV diagnosis can serve to alter their lives either positively or negatively. Dually diagnosed women have unique needs that require integration of physical and psychosocial interventions. These women may benefit from the services of psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioners who have the skills necessary to address the many psychosocial issues women face as well as provide physical treatment. Additionally, drug treatment services need to be expanded and made more comprehensive. Drug treatment programs need to be developed specifically for women, and these services need to be made accessible to poor women with substance abuse problems. Further, drug treatment programs need to provide comprehensive services that can appropriately integrate the treatment of HIV disease and substance abuse.

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