Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 1-1-2017


Worldwide Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





School of Nursing

Committee Chair

Lenore Resick

Committee Member

Joan Such Lockhart

Committee Member

Linda Frank


Hermeneutic phenomenology, HIV/AIDS, Lived Experience, Northern Appalachia, Rural


The purpose of this research study was to describe and understand the lived experience of individuals living with HIV/AIDS while residing in a rural region of northern Appalachia. A hermeneutic phenomenological method following the Utrecht School was used for this study. The setting for this study was a rural region of northern Appalachia. The sample consisted of 15 individuals, 18 years of age and older, self-identified as being HIV infected. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted. Transcripts of the interviews were analyzed for identification of themes across the data. Six themes were identified: surviving the predators, walking the road to death, the brink, rebirth/second chance, creating a nest of safety, and living in the shadows. The participants found meaning in sharing the history of their life that led to infection with HIV/AIDS. As participants accepted their illness and found support they embraced a rebirth/second chance and accepted support in order to continue living a life with purpose and creating a legacy in life. Participants created a nest of safety where they and their loved ones dwell to hide from the “shadows” in rural Northern Appalachia. Findings from this study suggest implications for nursing practice, nursing education, and nursing research. Implications for nursing practice include assessing for past and current physical and emotional abuse among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), assessing for concerns associated with personal safety in the home environment and in the community, and providing early and appropriate referral for ongoing support over time. Implications for nursing education include ongoing development of an ethical comportment in nursing education programs, assisting students in recognizing patients’ histories, unique attributes, and experiences, and developing continuing education programs on HIV/AIDS focusing on accurate knowledge regarding HIV/AIDS, beliefs and attitudes, and the psychosocial issues. Future research recommendations include exploring attitudes and beliefs of individuals living in rural Appalachia toward PLWHA, issues specific to women living with HIV/AIDS, attitudes of health care providers in rural Northern Appalachia, and replicating this study in other areas of rural Appalachia.