• Experiences of African American families at an AIDS bereavement camp: A descriptive study

      McFeaters, Susan J.; Oktay, Julianne S. (2000)
      African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Data from HIV/AIDS prevalence surveys continue to reflect the disproportionate impact of the epidemic on minority populations, especially women, youth and children. One consequence of the AIDS pandemic is the multiple losses sustained by low-income African American families. Little is known about the difficulties and challenges that families face that have experienced an AIDS-related loss, particularly low-income, urban African American families. Historically, AIDS services have not been designed to meet the needs of child rearing; bereaved families and practitioners have not had experience in intervening with theses families. Additionally, bereavement services have not existed for AIDS-affected families. The purpose of this study was to describe an innovative bereavement program for low-income, urban African American families impacted by AIDS-related loss. This study also describes the experiences of families and the specific interventions designed to assist them in coping with AIDS-related loss. A qualitative ethnographic technique was employed and participant observation was utilized as the primary method of data collection. Triangulation, reflexive journaling and cultural and grief consultants were utilized to increase validity. The analysis identified three categories of stressors experienced by the families: stressors resulting from AIDS-related loss, stressors, resulting from living with AIDS, and stressors resulting from new family configurations. Two primary types of interventions were implemented at the camp: bereavement interventions and interventions that strengthened and built families. The bereavement interventions consisted of building a safe environment, encouraging emotional expression and putting closure on the weekend. The interventions that strengthen and build families focused on raising the self-esteem among family members, promoting family unity and creating ongoing support among families in order to avoid future isolation. Further, the research showed how three cultural components, spirituality, rituals, and kinship bonds helped to facilitate the interventions. The results of this study indicate that practitioners working with AIDS-bereaved families need to assist them in not only resolving grief, but to recognize and address the multiple stressors affecting the families. Practitioners also need to utilize techniques that assist in strengthening and building low-income, urban African American families in a culturally competent framework.