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Surviving HIV/AIDS in the Inner City

Surviving HIV/AIDS in the Inner City: How Resourceful Latinas Beat the Odds

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Surviving HIV/AIDS in the Inner City
    Book Description:

    Surviving HIV/AIDS in the Inner Cityexplores the survival strategies of poor, HIV-positive Puerto Rican women by asking four key questions: Given their limited resources, how did they manage an illness as serious as HIV/AIDS? Did they look for alternatives to conventional medical treatment? Did the challenges they faced deprive them of self-determination, or could they help themselves and each other? What can we learn from these resourceful women?Based on her work with minority women living in Newark, New Jersey, Sabrina Marie Chase illuminates the hidden traps and land mines burdening our current health care system as a whole. For the women she studied, alliances with doctors, nurses, and social workers could literally mean the difference between life and death. By applying the theories of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to the day-to-day experiences of HIV-positive Latinas, Chase explains why some struggled and even died while others flourished and thrived under difficult conditions. These gripping, true-life stories advocate for those living with chronic illness who depend on the health care "safety net." Through her exploration of life and death among Newark's resourceful women, Chase provides the groundwork for inciting positive change in the U.S. health care system.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5348-1
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. 1 Torn between Structure and Agency
    (pp. 1-20)

    Caridad and her son, Manuelito, had lived in Newark for only a year when she got married. This was an unexpected blessing. Caridad had left Puerto Rico to escape an abusive relationship with her longtime partner, a violent IV drug user. When she arrived she hoped only for a peaceful life; she had not expected to fall in love again so soon. Her new husband, Eduardo, was an older man, who had also been born in Puerto Rico. It had been a whirlwind courtship—some said too brief—but Caridad was bursting with happiness and hope. They shared common values:...

  7. 2 Resourceful Women
    (pp. 21-60)

    Here you will meet New Jersey’s resourceful women through my eyes. I tell these stories with the full awareness that I have, in some sense, constructed them. Though I have drawn from women’s own words whenever possible, they do not speak for themselves. If they did, they might say something else. Still, I weave together what I believe to be key elements of their stories, with special attention to their use of cultural and social capital.

    I did not understand the power of crossing social and cultural boundaries with ease when I began this project. As a medical anthropologist, it...

  8. 3 Unpacking Newark’s Epidemic
    (pp. 61-88)

    In order to understand the impact of cultural and social capital on the lives of Caridad and her cohorts, it is crucial to understand the city in which most of them lived. When I began planning my study in the mid-1990s, most of the women I worked with had just begun their journey as people living with HIV/AIDS. They moved within a national, regional, and municipal context that shaped what was possible. This chapter will offer a glimpse of the greater economic and political forces that shaped their worlds and framed their lives. It is far from comprehensive, because these...

  9. 4 Understanding HIV
    (pp. 89-110)

    The women I worked with all had acquaintances, friends, and even family members who had contracted the virus, but they were unprepared to hear the diagnosis themselves. HIV/AIDS was something that happened to other people. They had all been exposed to both the national and local discourse about AIDS—group discussions, statements, and opinions about it, media broadcasts on HIV (like talk show segments or TV newscasts), and newspapers and magazine articles. But once each woman began struggling with the illness herself, she started to draw on what she had heard and what she believed in order to make sense...

  10. 5 Managing Social Services
    (pp. 111-128)

    One day I arrived at Nini’s house to find her stalking around the kitchen with an annoyed expression. “What’s the matter?” I asked, as we flopped down at the kitchen table. “I just got off the phone with my case manager,” Nini huffed. “She heard about a job and she wants me to call and apply right away. She’s excited because it pays a little more than minimum wage and I’ve spent twenty minutes listening to her push me to call about it!”

    “That’s great!” I answered. “Maybe this will be a good thing and you can start working again.”...

  11. 6 Working the Clinics
    (pp. 129-145)

    One sunny afternoon I stopped at Carlotta’s apartment to see how she was doing. When she opened the door I could see from the look on her face that something was wrong. Before we could even sit down, a detailed description of her frustration tumbled out.

    She had entered the hospital over a week before with a terrible feeling of pressure in her chest and extremely high blood pressure readings. While she was there, the residents caring for her had ordered numerous tests, but no one had told her the cause of the problem. Carlotta recognized a prescription they gave...

  12. 7 Taking Care of Yourself
    (pp. 146-163)

    For Alicia and her cohort, HIV meant an increase in the demands of daily living. Families still had to be cared for; households still had to be run; and, as noted previously, women often supported HIV-positive husbands or partners as well as their children. In addition to these obligations, women now had to make time for ID clinic appointments, specialty care appointments, support group meetings or mental health care appointments, and a daily regimen of pills and remedies.

    Making sense of these demands was overwhelming. Each woman found herself sifting through them, trying to determine what was necessary, what was...

  13. 8 Learning from Resourceful Women
    (pp. 164-172)

    I began my work with Newark’s resourceful women by asking four key questions. Given their limited resources, how did they manage an illness as serious as HIV/AIDS? Did they seek out alternatives to conventional medicine and, if so, what kind? Could they act as effective agents despite the structural violence that constrained them? And what could Newark’s resourceful women teach us about our health care system and the way we can expect to use it?

    The key differences between more successful and less successful women can best be understood through Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural capital,habitus, and social capital....

  14. Epilogue: Sorrows and Joys
    (pp. 173-188)

    Ten years have passed since I left the field. My experiences with northern New Jersey’s resourceful women have shaped who I am and how I see the world. I cannot imagine who I would have become without them. My relationships with some women stayed strong, while others gradually drifted away. A few women died, and their passing broke my heart. For a long time, the memory of their deaths kept me from looking for women who had wandered out of my life. I was afraid to discover who had lived and who had died. When I finally began searching for...

    (pp. 189-200)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 201-208)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)