Learning Objective 1: enumerate the challenges and opportunities involved in HIV/AIDS research within a family context, especially when the “patient” is an adult.
Learning Objective 2: appreciate the potential of the family identification form (FIF) as a tool for describing and tracking the family network of HIV+ women.
Methods: The FIF was administered to women who were screened for the clinical trial to identify family members for a companion study on family mechanisms. Family was defined to include the women’s household members, romantic partners, children and their caregivers, and others identified as a major source of support.
Results: The women reported on a total of 651 family members. Just over half (55%) of the women’s family network enrolled in the family mechanisms study. The majority of women lived alone, with a partner, in a nuclear family or they were raising children alone. Among the women’s minor children, the majority did not live with their mother and were not in her custody. Over the yearlong follow-up period, custody arrangements and romantic partnerships remained relatively stable; however, nearly half of the women experienced household composition change.
Conclusion: Our hope is that researchers will not be deterred by the considerable challenges of conducting family-level investigations so that knowledge and interventions can be advanced. Areas for further research and consideration for adapting this method to other nationalities are discussed.
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