'Dying from' to 'living with': Framing institutions and the coping processes of African American women living with HIV/AIDS

Celeste Watkins-Hayes*, La Shawn Da Pittman-Gay, Jean Beaman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


How do HIV-positive individuals transition from believing and behaving as though they have a 'death sentence' to interpreting and coping with HIV as a chronic but manageable illness? Using interview data collected from 30 HIV-positive African American women beginning in 2005, we reveal how and why interactions with non-profit and government institutions help to explain variation between those who thrive and those who do not following an HIV diagnosis. We argue that 'framing institutions' shape the form and tenor of coping trajectories by offering initial information about one's HIV status, a conceptual framework for understanding what it means to have HIV, language to talk about one's condition, and resources to begin restructuring one's life in the wake of a diagnosis. Ultimately, we highlight how a diverse array of non-profit and government institutions not only play a critical part in helping women cope with HIV but also renegotiate their self-conceptions as black women in the wake of receiving another stigmatizing social marker. In short, organizational ties shape women's movement from beliefs and behaviors that suggest that they are 'dying from' this disease to attitudes and actions consistent with the notion that they can 'live with' HIV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2028-2036
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Black Americans
  • Coping
  • Experience of illness
  • Gender
  • Institutions
  • Organizations
  • Stigma
  • Support
  • USA
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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