First Advisor

Lynne C. Messer

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Health Studies: Health Sciences and University Honors


Health Studies


HIV-positive women -- Southern States, Minority women -- Southern States, Depression in women -- Diagnosis, Health behavior




Women of color (WOC) are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic in the Southern United States and are at increased risk of infection, mortality and being lost to care. It has been found that compared to Whites, WOC are more likely to have more negative views towards mental illness and are less likely to seek help. The research presented here considers how depression acts as a barrier to health care and discusses the challenge that WOC face in identifying and naming depression. The Behavioral Activation Theory, posits that women may show depression through their behaviors even if they don’t explicitly name depression as an experience. Using behavioral activation theory, we attempted to 1) identify the likely prevalence of depression in WOC with HIV, even among those who may not verbally acknowledge being depressed and 2) use the actions, behaviors and verbiage used to describe an emotional state, to more accurately identify the occurrence of depression in these women. The project goal was to understand how depression affects care behavior among WOC with HIV using both quantitative (189 women were interviewed at baseline) and qualitative data collection (two focus groups consisting of 11 women total and 19 individual semi-structure interviews). From this study we learned that depression is an important barrier to women’s ability to get into and stay in HIV care. This is important going forward for researchers and practitioners who seek to engage and retain WOC with HIV in care.


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