Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Health and Human Performance (Community Health Option)

Department or School/College

Health and Human Performance

Committee Chair

Dr. Annie Sondag

Committee Co-chair

Dr. Blakely Brown

Commitee Members

Dr. Kimber McKay


HIV, rural, health, phenomenology, qualitative research, Montana


University of Montana


Rural states like Montana (MT) have unique considerations related to health care. Barriers to care, diagnostic testing and treatment, and availability and accessibility to timely care are of concern in rural areas. These considerations may be exacerbated for someone living with a chronic condition like HIV. Consequently, the primary purpose of this phenomenological study of people living with HIV (PLWH) in MT was to deepen understanding of their lived experience as it relates to the HIV health care continuum. This study captured the experience of PLWH in MT through in-depth qualitative interviews. A phenomenological approach allowed for an understanding of the essence of the lived experience of the interviewee and the opportunity to assess shared experiences across all participants. Interviews were conducted with 10 participants representing the northwestern and south-central regions of the state. Audio recordings were transcribed, reviewed and discussed between two qualitative researchers until consensus was met regarding the essence of all interviews. Member checking with nine of 10 project participants validated accurate representations of each participant’s experience of LWH and confirmed broader thematic categories. Participant experiences clustered into nine descriptive categories including: defining experiences, vulnerability, diagnosis, disclosure, health care, supports, education, processing LWH, and experience of LWH. Several insights regarding the health and well-being of PLWH in MT were identified. The value of mental health services to PLWH cannot be diminished: all participants that were linked to mental health care indicated that this aided their healing process. Many participants suggested that peer supports were critical to maintaining a positive outlook and easing the burden of LWH. Engaged case managers, housing liaisons, and coordinated health care teams were beneficial to all participants. It is also imperative to note the need for sensitive health care practices including options that recognize and acknowledge the dignity of each individual, which is crucial during the testing, treatment, and on-going care related to PLWH.



© Copyright 2018 Mary E. Parrish