Date of Conferral





Public Health


Paige P. Wermuth


African American (AA) women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. The infection rate for AA women continues to increase, and literature lacks information specifically on education for AA women regarding viral suppression at diagnosis. The purpose of the study was to understand the lived experiences of AA women living with HIV in the District of Columbia, particularly how they acquired knowledge of viral suppression. To understand their experiences with antiretroviral medications, viral suppression, discrimination, and stigma, this qualitative study applied a hermeneutic phenomenological approach. The theories of resilience and empowerment were applied. Ten HIV positive AA women living in the District of Columbia were selected through purposeful sampling. Primary data were collected through semistructured open-ended interviews. Clinical data from DC Health/HAHSTA HIV Surveillance system were used to triangulate responses. Participants’ self-report showed 80% achieved viral suppression. Study findings indicate that education on the importance of viral suppression was not consistently provided to women at time of HIV diagnosis. Unprotected sex, men returning from prison, and lack of HIV education were named as factors spreading the infection. The consistent factor in HIV survivability for the sample were unfettered access to HIV treatment, availability of antiretroviral medication, self-efficacy, spirituality, and support group. This study promoted social change by identifying precise areas of HIV education for AA women to be incorporated in HIV prevention and treatment interventions.