Ruth Muze & Elijah O. Onsomu (2017) Our Children, Our Hope: Voices of African American Mothers Living with HIV and Rearing Uninfected Children, Journal of Community Health Nursing, 34:3, 160-168, DOI: 10.1080/07370016.2017.1340770
Introduction to Parenting with HIV
Though living with HIV is no longer a death sentence, there are still stigmas carried with the disease that make parenting with HIV extremely hard for mothers. Due to antiretroviral prophylaxis, which reduces HIV transmission from mother to fetus, more women feel comfortable with having children and are more excited to become mothers. Although the disease may not be transmitted, the mothers must still face an overwhelming responsibility that when combined with regular HIV side effects such as depression can leave children with internalized problems.
In order to participate women must fulfill the following criteria: 19 years old, mother with full-time care of one uninfected preschool-aged children, diagnosis of HIV status, self-identifying as African American, diagnosis at least 12 months prior, and affiliation with the Positive Wellness Alliance.
The mothers said that their emotional and personal lives in addition to the way they raise their children is affected by their health and well-being. Their involvement with their children day to day helps to act as a distraction from their illness. Additionally, being a single mother makes things even harder but they do everything they can to carry out all childcare tasks.
“It’s like trying to organize things in the morning by trying to follow through all that needs to be done for my daughter and trying to plan all her meals. … It wears me out; sometimes, I just can’t get up to take care of myself because of her.”
There is a large sense of isolation among the women that is associated with HIV, that is especially prevalent with the support of friends and family is not present.
“You just wish that somebody would call and try to rescue you or something. Of course, taking care of my child throws off my whole day because the focus is on my child.”
The overall experiences of the women in the study in regard to parenting their children were consistent within the group. Through all the challenges, their overall goal was to fulfill their children’s needs. Parenting intervention programs would ease the struggle to meet all of these responsibilities.
The struggles of mothers are often underestimated, especially of those living with illness. It is clear that women with HIV who have children often put their kids first, and sometimes even compromise their own health to do so. This is just another example of why women do not necessarily receive or upkeep the same level of care for themselves as male counterparts.