Illinois: Northwestern University Professor Studies AIDS and Poor Women

From now through mid-summer, a team from Northwestern University will interview Chicago-area women with HIV/AIDS about how their economic life affects their health. How the women get money and spend it will be studied by Celeste Watkins-Hayes, associate professor of African-American studies and sociology, and colleagues.

"For impoverished populations, living in this economy is clearly a challenge, but living with the added hardships of HIV is daunting," Watkins-Hayes said.

The professor believes economic survival strategies are a missing link in HIV/AIDS research, and she hopes her study will reveal the social and financial supports that enhance HIV-positive women's health. The assistance could be public-, private- or nonprofit-based.

The team will interview 150 HIV-positive women ages 18-65, then follow a subgroup of 35 over two years to observe their economic conditions. AIDS service providers will also be interviewed.

"Some participants have found healing in being able to release some of the shame and stigma of their disease," said Watkins-Hayes. "It has been healing to have someone listen and know that [the participants] have loves, fears, struggles like the rest of us. For many low-income women, participation is economic survival. The study pays participants $35, and $35 is a lot for a woman struggling."

Women interested in participating may telephone 877-737-4758 or e-mail