Date of Award

December 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Kathleen Sawin

Committee Members

Virginia Stoffel, Peninnah Kako, Patricia Stevens, Katie Mosack


The purpose of this descriptive study was to explore the research question: "As an emerging adult what is your everyday experience of living with PHIV?" The purposive sample consisted of six emerging adults living with perinatally acquired HIV (PHIV), who are 18-29 years of age, speak English, and live in the greater Chicago area.

This was an exploratory study using a participatory action approach of photovoice. Photovoice methodology combines photography and participatory action to provide images and the participants' interpretations of their everyday health realities. Five themes which describe the everyday experience of living with PHIV emerged from the thematic analysis of the data: refusal to be defined by HIV, living life to the fullest, empowerment through social connections, the need for political support, and hope. Refusal to be defined by HIV emerged as the rejection of being solely described as a person with the virus. Secondly, living life to the fullest is valuing every past, present, and future moment despite living with PHIV. Empowerment through social connections describes how emerging adults with PHIV gain power through engagement with others such as peers living with HIV, romantic partners, family, and community. The fourth theme to emerge is the need for political support. Political support is the need for assistance in ways to achieve funding, promote advocacy (voice), and feel secure. Lastly, hope is the belief that desires and dreams can be achieved despite living with PHIV through education, spiritual beliefs, and self-preservation.

Findings are consistent with the theory of Emerging Adulthood and describe the sample as doing well, pursuing education, being connected to health care and engaging in relationships. Results indicate additional research is needed to address gaps in our knowledge including how emerging adults living with PHIV deal with stress and anxiety as well as engage in decision-making about health, love, and work. Finally, we need to further understand how these emerging adults handle change in love relationships and how spiritual practices and behaviors influence sexual attitudes and beliefs and activities.

Included in

Nursing Commons