Structural Barriers to HIV Prevention and Services: Perspectives of African American Women in Low-Income Communities.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


African American women are at a disproportionate HIV risk compared with other U.S. women. Studies show that complex structural and social determinants, rather than individual behaviors, place African American women at greater risk of HIV infection; however, little is known about women's views of what puts them at risk.


This study sought to comprehend the perceptions of African American women living in low-income housing regarding the factors that influence both their personal sexual health behaviors and use of HIV prevention services.


We conducted seven focus groups with 48 African American women from 10 public housing communities in a small city in the southeastern United States. We analyzed the focus group transcripts using thematic data analysis to identify salient themes and points of interest related to the study aim.


Women identified factors related to the health care system (trustworthiness of the health care system), the external environment (racism, classism, patriarchal structures, and violence/crime), as well as predisposing (health beliefs, stigma, and gender norms), enabling (agency to negotiate gendered power), and need (perceived HIV risk and perceptions of partner characteristics) features of individuals in the population.


African American women living in public housing are especially vulnerable to HIV infection due to intersectional discrimination based on racism, classism, gender power dynamics, and community conditions. Our findings confirm the need to develop HIV intervention programming addressing intersectional identities of those making up the communities they plan to address, and being informed by those living in the communities they plan to act on.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rimmler, S; Golin, C; Coleman, J; Welgus, H; Shaughnessy, S; Taraskiewicz, L; Lightfoot, AF; Randolph, SD; Riggins, L

Published Date

  • December 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 49 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 1022 - 1032

PubMed ID

  • 35856333

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9574897

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-6127

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1090-1981

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/10901981221109138


  • eng