Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

MA - Master of Arts


Expressive Therapies


Sarah Hamil


Women living with HIV/AIDS (WLH) and poverty face numerous challenges to survival. Typically, WLH in the United States have been exposed to more than just a deadly virus; they have often experienced or witnessed drug addiction, poverty, abuse, mental health disorders, homelessness, abandonment, involvement in the sex industry, racism, sexism, prejudice, social injustice, chronic hunger, generational trauma, and violence – community, domestic, cultural, police enforced, etc. The literature reviewed suggests that treating HIV/AIDS requires a holistic approach that pays close attention to the biopsychosocial needs of the individual. In addition to the physical and economic toll the disease takes on the individual, the shame and stigma associated with this disease can lead to isolation, depression, and a state of helplessness. The community project explored the use of photo narrative and art therapy approach in a therapeutic group setting. The project offered WLH a place to safely examine their lives without judgment or fear. The photograph became a tool to contain the difficult experiences, to distance the trauma from the individual, to communicate what may be difficult to express in words, and to highlight and share successes. Through the photo narrative project, each group member created a visual timeline of their life journey/journey with HIV, nurtured community trust and support, and produced a final product that can be used to promote self-esteem, to measure resilience, to educate others, and to reduce stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Several recurring themes such as spiritual faith, community support, self-love, and mindful appreciation of life emerged which supported the idea that cultivated resilience in the face of trauma allows WLH to not only survive but thrive.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.




The author owns the copyright to this work.