"It Took a Piece of Me:" Initial Responses to a Positive HIV Diagnosis by Caribbean People in the UK

Few published qualitative studies have addressed how people respond to the news that they are HIV-positive, and none have focused on Caribbean people, the study authors explained. To examine HIV diagnosis experiences and their immediate aftermath, the researchers performed semi-structured interviews of 25 HIV-positive Caribbean people in London.

Participants experienced profound shock and distress upon receiving an HIV diagnosis, as they associated the disease with "immediate death and stigmatization. The respondents struggled with 'biographical disruption,' the radical disjuncture between life before and after diagnosis, which led them into a state of liminality, as they found themselves 'betwixt and between' established structural and social identities," according to the researchers.

Respondents reported multifaceted losses: of their known self, their current life, their envisioned future, and the partner they had anticipated would play a role in each of these. "A minority of accounts suggest that the way in which health care practitioners delivered the diagnosis intensified the participants' distress," the authors reported.

"This research suggests that health care practitioners should educate patients in specific aspects of HIV transmission and treatment, and engage closely with them in order to understand their needs and potential reactions to a positive diagnosis," the authors concluded.