Spiritual, Transcendent, and Religious Experiences of Transgender Women of Color Living with HIV

Dissertation Summary

Transgender women are forty-nine times more likely than the general population to be living with HIV with the estimated HIV prevalence for transgender women to be 27.7%. In addition to increased risk among transgender women as a population, there is also a greater risk among Black and Latina transgender women and youth. Intersecting identities like race, age, and socioeconomic status may also exacerbate a transgender woman’s risk for HIV. Despite the challenges that Transgender Women Living with HIV (TGWCLH) encounter regarding HIV treatment, social support has been identified as an important component of resilience to stress (Singh, Hays, & Watson, 2011). The use of spirituality to cope with stressful events, has been scientifically linked to better life satisfaction, less depressive symptoms, higher self-esteem, and improved cognitive functioning (Pargament, Koenig, Tarakeshwar, & Hahn, 2004).

My dissertation explores the relationship between spirituality and the HIV care continuum for TGWCLH. The goal of my work is to gain a better understanding around the systems of support, coping styles, and resilience, specifically related to how spiritual and religious experiences may play a role in the decisions TGWCLH make regarding their HIV treatment and care. I also aim to understand how healthcare providers and members of spiritual, faith, and religious communities may be of assistance in developing and identifying ways to increase the quality of treatment and care of TGWCLH, as well as increasing treatment adherence and viral suppression. My study is qualitative, and I am using grounded theory to explore the experiences of eighteen TGWCLH through individual interviews.


Tiffany S. Grimes is doctoral candidate in the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia.Tiffany relocated to Washington, DC in the summer of 2016 to serve as a Public Interest Policy Scholar in the Public Interest Government Relations Office and as a summer intern in the Minority Fellowship Program office at the American Psychological Association. She recently completed an externship at the Washington DC VA Medical Center and is currently applying to clinical internship. At the University of Georgia, she is concentrating in Health Psychology and her research interests primarily center on the lived experiences of the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV using multicultural and intersectional lenses.

Tiffany completed her Master’s degree in General Psychology at Boston University and her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Spanish at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. Her research and clinical interests were heavily shaped by her experiences serving in Ecuador for three years as a Community Health Peace Corps Volunteer, where she also had the opportunity to mentor children and youth in community engagement, policy, and sexual and reproductive health.Furthermore, Tiffany is a trained Safe Space Ally for her university and is currently enrolled in The George Washington University graduate certificate program in LGBT Health Policy & Practice. She is a native of Mobile, Alabama.