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Reading: “HIV is a Story, not Life”: Resilience among South Asian Women living with HIV in Canada


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Original Research Articles

“HIV is a Story, not Life”: Resilience among South Asian Women living with HIV in Canada


Saipriya Vajravelu ,

McMaster University, CA
About Saipriya
Saipriya Vajravelu is a Doctoral student in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University.
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Kelly K O'Brien,

University of Toronto, CA
About Kelly K
Kelly O’Brien, Ph.D., PT is a Physical Therapist and Clinical Epidemiologist who holds a Canada Research Chair in Episodic Disability and Rehabilitation. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, cross-appointed with the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME), Clinical Epidemiology and Health Care Research (CEHCR), and Rehabilitation Sciences Institutes (RSI) at the University of Toronto. Her research is focused on episodic disability and rehabilitation in the context of HIV and chronic disease. Kelly is also a founding member of the Canada-International HIV and Rehabilitation Research Collaborative (CIHRRC).
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Sandra Moll,

McMaster University, CA
About Sandra
Sandra is an Occupational Therapist and Associate Professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University. Her clinical and research expertise is in the area of mental health, building on over a decade of frontline clinical work and over two decades of applied research. Her primary program of research focuses on mental health, along the continuum from mental health promotion to intervention and return to work, including young workers, students, healthcare providers and first responders.
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Patricia Solomon

McMaster University, CA
About Patricia
Patricia Solomon is Professor Emerita in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University. Dr. Solomon is among the first rehabilitation scientists to develop a research program in the emerging area of HIV, disability, and the role of rehabilitation. She has received CIHR funding for her research related to disability experienced by women living with HIV and the influence of aging on adults living with HIV. She has been on the board of directors of two AIDS service organizations and is currently working with a team to examine HIV and disability in a global context.
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Purpose: This study aimed to understand how immigrant South Asian women living with HIV in Canada develop resilience and to identify their self-management strategies. These strategies could be used by marginalised women and can be supported by health providers.  

Method: The study participants were eight South Asian women with HIV, living in Ontario, Canada. The women belonged to an urban HIV community organisation. Qualitative methods were used to investigate their experiences. In-depth face-to-face interviews were conducted, utilising a photo/object elicitation technique, to identify the strategies used to develop resilience.

Results: The women were primarily in mid-adulthood (age range 39-60 years) and had lived for many years with HIV (range 8-25 years).  Thematic analysis of the interview transcripts revealed three themes characterising strategies for resilience: identifying the need for self-care, maintaining social connectivity, and remaining optimistic.

Conclusion and Implications: With these strategies, the women had cultivated strength and perseverance in adjusting to adversity. Viewing the resilience of South Asian immigrant women living with HIV through a cultural lens could help to understand and facilitate the development of culturally acceptable self-management strategies.

How to Cite: Vajravelu, S., O'Brien, K.K., Moll, S. and Solomon, P., 2022. “HIV is a Story, not Life”: Resilience among South Asian Women living with HIV in Canada. Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development, 33(2), pp.22–40. DOI:
Published on 05 Aug 2022.


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