Date of Conferral





Public Health


Frazier B. Beatty


More than 49,081 people were diagnosed with HIV in the United States in 2011. Of those 49,081 HIV-infected persons, 1 in 6 was not aware of being HIV positive. In 2011, Georgia had the 5th highest number of HIV diagnoses among the 50 U.S. states. This phenomenological study aimed to understand the lived experiences of HIV-infected adults, ages 30 to 49 years in Atlanta, Georgia, by understanding their perceptions of risk prior to contracting HIV. The health belief model was used to guide this study because it explains and predicts health-related behaviors and it has been used in previous studies to identify preventive behaviors specific to sexual behaviors. Purposive sampling was used to obtain 12 HIV-positive persons ages 30 to 49 years who lived in the metropolitan Atlanta area at the time of the study, were knowledgeable about HIV perceptions, and were able to discuss their lived experiences. Interviews were conducted to collect the data. The data analysis procedures included creating codes and categorizing the data, checking the validity of the codes, identifying patterns and themes, interpreting the data, and conducting member checks. Results showed that most participants did not perceive themselves to be at risk of HIV. Participants also experienced stigmatization and had challenges maintaining social relationships after their HIV positive diagnosis. Future priorities should focus on identifying best practices relevant to individual, familial, organizational, societal, environmental, economic, and policy factors to reduce the risk of HIV. This study is important for public health and social change because the findings might be used by healthcare professionals to identify and allocate the resources necessary to strengthen HIV/AIDS care and services to the populations who need them the most.