, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 437-449
Date: 15 Aug 2006

Diminished Sexual Activity, Interest, and Feelings of Attractiveness Among HIV-Infected Women in Two Eras of the AIDS Epidemic

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Despite the high prevalence of sexual inactivity, decreased sexual desire, and poor sexual satisfaction documented among HIV-infected individuals, women’s experiences of sexuality following HIV-infection and their reasons for these sexual changes remain little examined. Further, the potential effects of the availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) medications on their sexuality have not been explored among women living with HIV/AIDS. To examine these issues, focused interviews were conducted with two samples of women living with HIV/AIDS: one before the advent of HAART and a second matched sample interviewed after HAART became widely available. Women in both the pre-HAART and HAART eras frequently discussed decreased sexual activity, a loss of sexual interest, and a diminished sense of sexual attractiveness following their HIV infection. In addition, they reported a number of reasons for why they had discontinued sexual activity or were no longer interested in sex, including anxiety about HIV transmission, a loss of freedom and spontaneity during sex, fears of emotional hurt, not wanting the hassle of sexual relationships, a loss of sexual interest, and a diminished sense of sexual attractiveness. However, the types of changes in their sexuality women described, nor the reasons offered for these changes, did not differ between women in the pre-HAART and HAART eras. The findings suggest that therapeutic intervention may be needed by some HIV-infected women to overcome difficulties in resuming healthy sexual relationships following their HIV diagnosis and offer insights into the potential content of such intervention efforts.