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In Our Grandmother's Footsteps: Perceptions of Being Strong in African American Women With HIV/AIDS

Shambley-Ebron, Donna Z. PhD, RN; Boyle, Joyceen S. PhD, RN, FAAN


One of the most significant challenges facing the health of black women in the 21st century is the growing numbers of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency disease (HIV/AIDS) infections. An ethnographic study of African American mothers living with HIV/AIDS revealed that they believed in a tradition and heritage of strength that fostered their survival during difficult life experiences such as living and mothering with HIV/AIDS. They enacted this strength in culturally significant ways. This article discusses the importance of recognizing and supporting cultural strengths of African American women to help manage illness, while remaining cognizant of the context of oppression, discrimination, and stigma that distort cultural traditions and instead penalize women when they are ill.

College of Nursing, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio (Dr Shambley-Ebron); and the College of Nursing, University of Arizona, Tucson (Dr Boyle).

Corresponding author: Donna Z. Shambley-Ebron, PhD, RN, College of Nursing, University of Cincinnati, Procter Hall, Room 244, 3110 Vine Str, Cincinnati, OH 45221 (e-mail:

The primary author thanks the American Nurses Foundation for funding this research.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.