African American women continue to be at the forefront of the discussion of health disparities, especially as related to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Nationally, African American women account for 64% of new HIV diagnoses among women, and AIDS is one of the top ten leading causes of death for African American women aged 15-64 years. Notwithstanding HIV/AIDS, African Americans continue to experience disparities related to physical health and mental health outcomes, as compared to the larger U.S. population. Although there has been a wealth of research examining HIV/AIDS prevention programs targeting African American women, the ways in which participants understand and create meaning from these interventions are lacking in the literature.Several qualitatively oriented papers have discussed themes derived from the lived experience of persons living with HIV/AIDS, however, the collective patterns of shared meanings and experiences (personal and cultural) that create a sense of purpose, and understanding to an individual’s life as it pertains to HIV prevention have not been explored. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how the participants of the Healer Women Fighting Disease Project in Austin, Texas understand themselves in relation to the intervention. The Healer Women Fighting disease intervention is an African-centered HIV prevention program that includes a general health component to address preventive health alongside HIV/AIDS prevention. One component of the intervention focused on sacred stones (i.e., Healing Stone) as a traditional African healing tool used for African American women’s health and mental health.Using Afrocentric theory as the basic framework for this program, the African Centered Behavioral Change Model was based on the principle of re-instilling traditional cultural values into African-descent people based on the premise that African Americans, for the most part, survived historically based on Afrocentric worldviews and African values and traditions. The data for the study were secondary data of journals written by women over an eight-week period who participated in the Healer Women program, a systematic random sample of the 60 journals (from the original study) was used to select 20 journals for analysis for this study. Phenomenological analysis was used to elicit themes, ultimately leading to five major themes, three of which had subthemes. The themes that emerged during the coding and analysis process included: turning to a higher power (subthemes: leaning on faith and practicing faith); self-care (subthemes: thinking, identifying and practicing); sense of true self (subthemes: becoming, I can imagine, and I am), healing from previous pain, and sense of purpose and meaning. Findings suggest that the sacred stones held strong resonance for the women and strongly impacted their commitment to better health and mental health. Further, creating meaning within the context of the women’s African heritage was the key to achieving behavioral change, and empowering the women to make healthier life choices. In addition, the findings suggest that incorporating African cultural values in the lives of African American women promotes, physical and mental well-being, spirituality, healing, a sense of authentic self, and purpose and meaning. Therefore, as health disparities continue to rise in this population, Afrocentric and effective prevention programming is desperately needed. This research highlights that social work and public health prevention programs aimed at eradicating HIV/AIDS and promoting wellness for African American women should include African cultural values and principles as the core of the intervention in order to yield positive outcomes among this population.
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