HIV illness representation as a predictor of self-care management and health outcomes: A multi-site, cross-cultural study

N. R. Reynolds, L. Sanzero Eller, P. K. Nicholas, I. B. Corless, K. Kirksey, M. J. Hamilton, J. K. Kemppainen, E. Bunch, P. Dole, D. Wantland, E. Sefcik, K. M. Nokes, C. L. Coleman, M. Rivero, G. E. Canaval, Y. F. Tsai, W. L. Holzemer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has shown that the perceptions that form the cognitive representation of an illness (illness representation) are fundamental to how persons cope with illness. This study examined the relationship of illness representation of HIV with self-care behavior and health outcomes. Data were collected at 16 sites in the United States, Taiwan, Norway, Puerto Rico and Colombia via survey. HIV seropositive participants (n = 1,217, 31% female, 38% African-American/Black, 10% Asian/Pacific Islander and 26% White/Anglo) completed measures of illness representation based on the commonly accepted five-component structure: identity, time-line, consequences, cause, and cure/controllability (Weinman et al. 1996, Psychology and Health, 11, 431-445). Linear regression analyses were conducted to investigate relationships among illness representation, self-care behaviors and quality-of-life outcomes. Components of illness representation were associated with self-care and health outcomes, indicating that the cognitive representation of HIV has consequences for effective illness management. For example, perception that there is little that can be done to control HIV was significantly associated with fewer and less effective self-care activities (F = 12.86, P < .001) and poorer health function in the domain of quality-of-life (F = 13.89, P < .001). The concept of illness representation provides a useful framework for understanding HIV symptom management and may be useful in directing development of effective patient-centered interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-267
Number of pages10
JournalAIDS and behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Beliefs
  • Chronic illness
  • HIV
  • Illness representation
  • Self-care
  • Self-management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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