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Self-Care Strategies and Sources of Information for HIV/AIDS Symptom Management

Chou, Fang-Yu; Holzemer, William L.; Portillo, Carmen J.; Slaughter, Rob


Background: Self-care is one of the challenges that people with HIV/AIDS face in the long-term symptom management of the disease.

Objective: To identify the category schemes of self-care strategies and sources of information for symptom management reported by HIV-positive individuals.

Methods: A secondary analysis was conducted in a large dataset of an HIV/AIDS symptom management study. Narrative data of symptom self-care management strategies and sources of information for symptom management were analyzed by a content analysis technique to identify category schemes. The 359 participants in the study reported 776 symptom self-care strategies and 526 sources of information for these strategies.

Results: The symptom self-care management strategies were summarized into eight categories: medications (23.45%), self-comforting (15.21%), complementary treatments (14.69%), daily thoughts and activities (12.89%), diet changing (10.95%), help seeking (9.28%), spiritual care (6.83%), and exercise (6.70%). There were four categories of information sources: self (34.41%), healthcare provider (27.95%), personal network (19.20%), and community (18.44%). The category schemes had moderate to high interrater reliability (Cohen’s kappa: .49–1.00 for self-care strategy and .70–.87 for source of information). Most of the self-care stratgies were preceived as helpful. Except for complementary treatments, self-care strategies were used differently among people with the six most frequently occurring symptoms (χ2 [5, n = 286] = 28.53–79.89).

Discussion: The eight categories of self-care strategies identified in this study showed that people with HIV/AIDS not only seek the help of medications, but also follow a wide array of other self-developed or self-taught nonpharmaceutical strategies to allay their symptoms.

Fang-Yu Chou, RN, PhD, is Post-Doctoral Fellow; William L. Holzemer, RN, PhD, is Professor; Carmen J. Portillo, RN, PhD, FAAN, is Associate Professor; and Rob Slaughter, PhD, is Director, Office of Research; School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco.

Accepted for publication June 8, 2004.

This study was partially supported by NIH, NINR, T32NR0708.

The authors thank members of the UCSF International Nursing Research Network who participated in the data collection: Eli Bunch, Associate Professor, University of Oslo; Inge Corless, Professor, MGH Institute of Health Professions; Lucille Sanzero Eller, Assistant Professor, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey at Newark; William Holzemer, Professor, University of California, San Francisco; Jeanne Kemppainen, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Patrice Nicholas, Associate Professor, MGH Institute of Health Professions; and Kathleen Nokes, Professor, Hunter College, New York.

Corresponding author: Fang-Yu Chou, RN, PhD,School of Nursing, Box 0606, University of California, San Francisco, 2 Koret Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143 (e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.