Texas State Psychology Alum Publishes Research on those Living with HIV
In the United States, 44% of citizens live with HIV with 37% living in southern states. Although southern states tend to have lower HIV survival rates, Texas has a high survival rate for HIV and AIDS. With these higher survival rates come stressors and coping strategies. Texas State University Alum, Stephen Ramos, and faculty members found that stressors make living with HIV and AIDS in Texas challenging, but finding ways of coping helped survivors endure.
Ramos received his Master of Arts in Psychological Research (MAPR) in 2016. The study, A Qualitative Approach to Understanding HIV-Related Stress in Texas published in The Journal of Texas Medicine, was part of Ramos’ thesis. Ramos was assisted by co-authors and a thesis committee that included Dr. Aimee Roundtree in the Department of English, along with Dr. Kelly Haskward-Zolnierek and Dr. Ty Schepis in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Schepis was his thesis chair. The purpose of the study was to explore the experiences that HIV survivors encountered and how they managed stress while living with HIV in Texas.
The study revealed that unfavorable housing situations such as poor housing quality and government-subsidized housing, caused survivors stress. Finances largely contributed to stress as well from work life to everyday necessities. Additionally, relationship dynamics were stressful given that there is such a stigma surrounding the disease. Some findings about how survivors cope showed that HIV survivors reported that being both resilient and using substances lowered stress. On one hand, resilience grew as survivors learned to accept their disease. On the other, while substance use has drawbacks, survivors reported that it helped them calm down and relax.
The study concluded Texas may have higher survival rates because it has different attitudes about substance use and spirituality than other states in the South. The study also suggested that future research should investigate in other regions compared to Texas as well as including more diverse populations that represent the U.S general population.
Stephen Ramos is currently a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at Illinois Institute of Technology. His research interests include chronic illness, substance and alcohol use/abuse, stress, and mental/physical health disparities in minority communities. He has published research with other teams of researchers on marital satisfaction and health in long-distance relationships and pain disability. Clinically, he has specialized his training in behavioral medicine. His ultimate goal is being a professor at the university level, as well as teaching and conducting research on alcohol and drug use in chronically ill populations.