Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 188–204 | Cite as

Reconnecting to Spirituality: Christian-Identified Adolescents and Emerging Adult Young Men’s Journey from Diagnosis of HIV to Coping

  • Sharon T. Smith
  • Jennifer Blanchard
  • Susan Kools
  • Derrick Butler
Original Paper


Spirituality is important to holistic health, yet little is known about its impact on young people with HIV. To address this knowledge deficit, a grounded theory study used semi-structured interviews of 20 Christian-identified adolescent and emerging adult gay males and one perinatally infected male. This study revealed that, to cope with HIV health issues, participants used a process of reconnecting with their spirituality. In order to successfully reconnect with their spirituality, study participants reported a need to re-embrace and re-engage in spiritual practices, hold onto hope, believe they are normal, and commit to beliefs and practices despite rejection from the church.


Adolescent Emerging adults HIV Spirituality 



The first author would like to thank the participants and staff at both clinical sites who participated in this research. She would also like to thank Bruce Smith for editing the manuscript and JoAnn Walls for professional transcriptionist services. This research was support by Sigma Theta Tau International Dr. Sandra Wise Founder’s Scholarship, the University of California San Francisco Alumni Century Club Fund, and the University of California San Francisco Graduate Research Award.


  1. American Fact finder (2010). Fact sheets. Bureau of the Census. Retrieved from
  2. Anandarajah, G. & Hight, E. (2001). Spirituality and medical practice: Using the hope questions as a practice tool for spiritual assessment. Journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians, 63, 81–89. Retrieved from
  3. Arnett, J. J., & Jensen, L. A. (2002). A congregation of one: Individual religious beliefs among emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 17, 451–467. doi: 10.1177/0743558402175002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernstein, K., D’Angelo, L. J., & Lyon, M. E. (2012). As explanatory study of HIV+ adolescents’ spirituality: Will you pray with me? Journal of Religious Health, 52, 1253–1266. doi: 10.1007/s10943-012-9565-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryant, A., & Charmaz, K. (2007). The Sage handbook of grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Casarez, R. L. P., & Miles, M. S. (2008). Spirituality: A cultural strength for African-American mother with HIV. Clinical Nursing Research, 17, 118–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). HIV among youth. Retrieved
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Youth risk behavior surveillance. Retrieved
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). HIV/AIDS statistics and surveillance in “What CDC is Saying about Surveillance.” Retrieved
  10. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publication.Google Scholar
  11. Ehrlich, S. D. (2013). Spirituality. University Maryland Medical Center, Retrieved from
  12. Foster, M. L., Arnold, E., Rebchook, G., & Kegeles, S. M. (2011). “It’s my inner strength”: Spirituality, religion and HIV in the lives of young African American men who have sex with men. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 13(9), 1103–1117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harawa, N. T., Williams, J. K., Ramamurthi, H. C., Manago, C., Avina, S., & Jones, M. (2008). Sexual behavior, sexual identity, and substance abuse among low-income bisexual and non-gay-identifying African American men who have sex with men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 748–762.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Holloway, I., & Wheeler, S. (2010). Qualitative research in nursing and healthcare (3rd ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  15. Ironson, G., Stuetzle, R., & Fletcher, M. A. (2006). An increase in religiousness/spirituality occurs after HIV diagnosis and predicts slower disease progression over 4 years in people with HIV. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21, 62–68. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00648x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Koenig, H. G. (2011). Spirituality and health research: Methods, measurements, statistics and resources. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press.Google Scholar
  17. Lorenz, K. A., Hays, R. D., Shapiro, M. F., Cleary, P. D., Asch, S. M., & Wenger, N. S. (2005). Religiousness and spirituality among HIV-infected Americans. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 8, 774–781. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2005.8.774.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Lyon, M. E., Garvie, P. A., Kao, E., Briggs, L., He, J., Malow, R., & McCarter, R. (2011). Spirituality in HIV-infected adolescents and their families: FAmily CEntered (FACE) Advance Care Planning and medication adherence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48, 633–636. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.09.00697.2006.00642.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Park, J., & Nachman, S. (2010). The link between religion and HAART adherence in pediatric HIV Patients. AIDS Care, 22, 556–561. doi: 10.1080/09540120903254013.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Pew Research Center. (2015). Religious Landscape Study. Retrieved from
  21. Roehlkepartain, E. C., Benson, P. L., King, P. E., & Wagener, L. M. (2005). The Handbook of spiritual development in children and adolescence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.Google Scholar
  22. Saldaña, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publication.Google Scholar
  23. Smith, C., & Denton, M. L. (2005). Soul searching: The religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Steinberg, L. (2005). Cognitive and affective development in adolescence. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9(2), 69–74.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publication.Google Scholar
  26. Szaflarski, M., Ritchey, P. N., Leonard, A. C., Mrus, J. M., Peterman, A. H., Ellison, C. G., & Tsevat, J. (2006). Modeling the effects of spirituality/religion on patients’ perceptions of living with HIV/AIDS. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 21, 26–38. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00646.x.
  27. Trevino, K. M., Pargament, K. I., Cotton, S., Leonard, A. C., Hahn, J., Caprini-Faigin, C. A., & Tsevat, J. (2010). Religious coping and physiological, psychological, social and spiritual outcomes in patients with HIV/AIDS: Cross-sectional and longitudinal findings. AIDS Behavior, 14, 379–389. doi: 10.1007/s10461-007-9332-6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Whittemore, R., Chase, S. K., & Mandle, C. L. (2001). Validity in qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research, 11, 522–535. doi: 10.1177/104973201129119299.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Woodard, E. K., & Richard, S. (2001). God in control: Women’s perspective on managing HIV infection. Clinical Nursing Research, 10, 233–250. doi: 10.1177/10547730122158905.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon T. Smith
    • 1
  • Jennifer Blanchard
    • 2
  • Susan Kools
    • 3
  • Derrick Butler
    • 4
  1. 1.Hahn School of NursingUniversity of San DiegoSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Adolescent and Young Adult MedicineUniversity of California San Diego Medical CenterSan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.Madge M. Jones Professor, University of Virginia School of NursingCharlottesvilleUSA
  4. 4.The To Help Everyone ClinicLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations