To examine the social psychological aspects of complementary therapy use in HIV/AIDS health care and to identify what happens in a person's illness management process when incorporated into their care for HIV-related symptoms.
Grounded theory research method guided sampling, data collection and analysis with 21 males at various AIDS service organizations.
A grounded theory model Finding a Way to Live was developed. Participants experienced a six-stage process whereby the HIV served as a precondition for a profound self-transformation; a commitment to and rediscovery of the meaning of life. Complementary therapies, referred to as 'tools' by the participants, were cited as an integral part of how people living with HIV found wellness within their illness. The type of therapy, meanings attached to them, intention for and frequency of use corresponded to where individuals were in the six-stage process. As participants began to experience personal growth, the nature of the therapies shifted from those being highly tangible and focusing on the physical self to those facilitating inner awareness, such as meditation.
The process of integration was a complex, ongoing process wherein complementary therapies were an integral part of facilitating learning, self-discovery and ultimately, healing.