A Thematic Analysis of Resilient Experiences of People Who Use Drugs and Are Living with HIV Adhering to HIV Medicine

Valeria Duenas, University of Texas at El Paso


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a disease acquired through sex, from mother to child, sharing needles, and open wound exposure to the blood-borne virus. The disease leads to the rapid weakening of the immune system which renders the individual vulnerable to various opportunistic infections, cancer, disease progression into acquired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS), and possibly death. Unfortunately, US Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV as they account for nearly 30% of all new HIV infections. A subpopulation disproportionately affected also are people who inject drugs (PWID) which account for 1 in 10 HIV diagnosis in the U.S. Modern medicine has allowed people living with HIV to live long, healthy lives with the use of antiretroviral medication (ART) and the guidance of primary care physicians. However, many people, especially underserved minority populations, have a difficult time receiving treatment because of various barriers which lead to health disparities and health inequity. A few barriers include lack of health insurance, untreated mental illnesses, cultural and linguistic barriers, poor access to healthcare due to poverty, inadequate formal education, and stigma related to HIV (Greenaway et al., 2020). All of these factors negatively impact the person’s ability to enter any stage of the HIV treatment cascade which includes an HIV diagnosis, linkage to care, retention in care, adherence to ART, and achieving and maintaining viral suppression. A person’s continuous progression through the stages of the HIV treatment cascade is crucial for them to receive the care they need at any stage of their disease and ensure their long term health. The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences that impact people who inject drugs (PWID) living with HIV, and residing on the U.S.-Mexico border, in seeking medical treatment and the factors that facilitated remaining in medical care. A secondary data analysis of a qualitative study was undertaken to understand the factors that may drive an individual to enter medical treatment, remain in care, and adhere to their HIV medication. A resilience framework was employed to analyze the data. Results revealed several resilience factors which include community and social network support, individual level thoughts and behaviors that promote positive adaptation, and process of transformation that enables determination. The study findings contribute to the understanding of the role of resiliency among Latinos who use illegal drugs and are living in a medically underserved setting. Findings may help public health and medical professionals to develop interventions to promote resilience and motivate Latinos to enter the HIV treatment cascade sooner. Moreover, interventions can be tailored to address the needs of disadvantaged populations to bridge the health equity gap in infectious disease treatment

Subject Area

Health sciences|Public health|Virology|Immunology

Recommended Citation

Duenas, Valeria, "A Thematic Analysis of Resilient Experiences of People Who Use Drugs and Are Living with HIV Adhering to HIV Medicine" (2022). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30242368.