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“HIV Changed My Life Forever”: An Illustrative Case of a Sub-Saharan African Migrant Woman Living with HIV in Belgium

Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 1090 Brussels, Belgium
Department of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases-AIDS Reference Center, Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel, 1090 Brussels, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: John Frean
Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2017, 2(2), 12;
Received: 5 April 2017 / Revised: 15 May 2017 / Accepted: 16 May 2017 / Published: 23 May 2017
PDF [213 KB, uploaded 23 May 2017]


Living with HIV and AIDS changes everything for people diagnosed with HIV and it can be the most difficult experience in life. Like most people who have chronic diseases, these individuals have to deal with living a normal and quality life. Globally, more women (51%) than men are HIV positive. The main aim of this paper was to describe a sub-Saharan African migrant woman’s lived experience, and also to use the individual’s story to raise questions about the larger context after a HIV diagnosis. A qualitative study consisting of a personal story of a HIV-infected sub-Saharan African living in Belgium was conducted. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. The main themes that emerged from the data included relational risks, personal transformation and the search for normality, anxiety, depression, fear of stigma, societal gender norms, and support. The participant reported that marriage was no guarantee of staying HIV-free, especially in a male-dominant culture. This case further illustrates that married and unmarried African women are often at high risk of HIV and also informs us how HIV could spread, not only because of cultural practices but also because of individual behaviour and responses to everyday life situations. The participant also emphasized that she is faced with physical and mental health problems that are typical of people living with HIV. The vulnerability of sub-Saharan African women to HIV infection and their precarious health-related environments wherever they happen to be is further elucidated by this case. View Full-Text
Keywords: HIV; AIDS; choice-disabled; depression; mental health; migrant woman; vulnerability HIV; AIDS; choice-disabled; depression; mental health; migrant woman; vulnerability
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Arrey, A.E.; Bilsen, J.; Lacor, P.; Deschepper, R. “HIV Changed My Life Forever”: An Illustrative Case of a Sub-Saharan African Migrant Woman Living with HIV in Belgium. Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2017, 2, 12.

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Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. EISSN 2414-6366 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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