Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Andrea Sankar


Adults aged fifty and older are the fastest growing age group with HIV/AIDS. Research on older adults with HIV has focused primarily on health status and physiological changes that occur as people age with HIV. However, little is known about the socio-cultural consequences that occur when older adults are diagnosed with HIV and as they age with HIV. Drawing from an anthropological approach to the life course and Becker's (1997) framework of life disruption, this dissertation research explored to what extent people experienced disruption from living with HIV and reorganized their lives after experiencing disruption.

The specific aims included identifying and describing (1) how experiences of living with HIV map onto Becker's (1997) framework of life disruption and (2) the major disruptions and socio-cultural consequences of aging with HIV. This dissertation study took place from January to September 2009. The dataset consisted of data previously collected from a larger parent study (2002-2006) and in-depth interviews with older African Americans living with HIV (N=14) and health care professionals (N=3) collected in 2009.

Findings from the qualitative analysis of interviews reveal patterns of living with HIV that support and conflict with Becker's framework of life course disruption and reorganization. Participants described experiencing major disruptions to sexuality and intimacy since living with HIV. This dissertation research provides insight into understanding how HIV impacts the expectations and experiences of older adults living with HIV and the ongoing importance of sexuality and intimacy throughout the life course.