Communal or Autonomous? Coping Experiences of Chinese Serodiscordant Male Couples to HIV Care : A Dyadic Qualitative Analysis

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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  • Yuzhou Gu
  • Dan Wu
  • Lynae A. Darbes


Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationArchives of Sexual Behavior
Online published26 Jun 2023
Publication statusOnline published - 26 Jun 2023



Limited empirical evidence exists on the interpersonal challenges faced by Chinese serodiscordant male couples in HIV care. This study aimed to explore their coping experiences in HIV care by applying the communal coping process theoretical framework. A dyadic qualitative study using face-to-face interviews with 20 serodiscordant male couples (n = 40) was conducted between July and September 2021 in two Chinese metropolitan areas through purposive sampling. Eligibility included one partner living with HIV and the other being HIV-negative, both aged 18 or older, born male, gay or bisexual, and in a relationship together for at least 3 months. A hybrid deductive–inductive approach integrated with dyadic interview analysis and framework method was used for data analysis. We identified three themes in the coping process in HIV care: (1) coping as an autonomous process, (2) coping as a dissonant process, and (3) coping as a contextualized communal process. Concerning autonomous coping, most couples adopted either disengaged avoidance or mutual noninvolvement as negative coping strategies. We also identified potential risk factors for dissonant coping, which are a partner living with internalized HIV stigma and the couple’s asymmetric relationship goals. Our results indicate the communal coping process of HIV care is contextual, and our expansion of the communal coping theory sheds light on how serodiscordant male couples cope with stressors connected to HIV care. Our findings provide theoretical insights for the development of dyadic interventions based on health psychology for Chinese serodiscordant male couples to engage in HIV care. © 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Research Area(s)

  • Care engagement, Coping, HIV, Male couple, Qualitative research, Sexual orientation

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