James Chavers, Psy.D., is a 2017 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara.

Dr. James Chavers

Dissertation Committee:

  • Dan Schwartz, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Steven Kadin, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Charles Hilliard, Ph.D., External Expert


African American, Black, HIV, comorbidities, co-morbid conditions, AIDS, older, older adult

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HIV among older African Americans represents one of the fastest and largest growing populations of infected groups in America (CDC, 2008). With the availability of anti-retrovirals (ARV), or AIDS cocktail drugs, HIV has become a chronic illness. As African Americans are living longer with HIV, they are encountering the diseases that are consonant with aging. The effect of aging with HIV and an age-related comorbid condition can be physically and emotionally debilitating. Many of these older adults are also dealing with poverty, stigma, poor healthcare access, and limited social support. The purpose of this study was to explore how these older African Americans make sense of their experience of living with HIV and an age-related comorbidity, through semi-structured interviews. Using a form of qualitative analysis called interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), this researcher located three superordinate themes or principal areas of concern to older HIV-positive African American adults’ understanding of their lived experiences with HIV and age-related co-morbid conditions: “HIV as the new normal,” “HIV spurs self-advocacy,” and “health as a fragile construct.” The results suggest that while older African Americans’ current experiences of HIV may be less daunting, their experiences of co-morbid conditions are more acute and severe, and combined with HIV, have left them more vulnerable and in need of support. The electronic version of the dissertation is accessible at the Ohiolink ETD center


ORCID: 0000-0001-5243-4503


James Wesley Chavers, Jr. received his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with emphasis in Family Systems and Family Forensic Psychology from Antioch University Santa Barbara in 2017.

I was drawn to the field of psychology through my father. A transplanted Southerner armed with an 8th grade education, he raised a family of five with all the dignity and love he could muster. As a recipient of that love, and an inheritor of his innate curiosity about the human condition, I decided to honor him by studying psychology. Because of my mother and her mother’s unshakeable faith and dedication to kindness, I have endeavored to incorporate my faith into my desire to confront human suffering.

My training in the Los Angeles County Jail, Central Regional Detention Center (women’s jail), and at an HIV clinic in south Los Angeles has placed me in the privileged position of listening to the stories of the people who dwell in the margins of society – the maligned, misunderstood, and marginalized. I have come to appreciate the innate value, dignity, and worth of Black transgendered women, drug addicted single mothers, incarcerated undocumented gay Latino men, and HIV infected older women living with mental illness. When they share their histories the walls that separate them from me, them from society, and even them from themselves come crashing down. Through the dint of my training, I am in the enviable position of translating their distress into something meaningful by which myself and by extension society can learn and heal.

My internship training at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio helped me to grasp the enormous complexity in which young adults attempt to live in a 21st century society. Faced with mounting pressure and loftier expectations for success, many of these students experienced mental health challenges. I empathized with adolescent men and women who struggled to meet the rigorous academic standards of the institutions, maintain the respect of their peers, and manage the pitfalls of their emerging adult identities – all on their own.

Post-doc training exposed me to training with a team of HIV researchers at Charles Drew University. Teams collaborated to produce original academic work that sought to address fundamental challenges of reaching out to heavily affected/infected populations, testing them, treating them, and preventing further HIV infection. Interdisciplinary work with graduate students, psychologists, infectious disease specialist, psychiatrists, substance abuse counselors and HIV prevention specialists enabled me to have a broad and well-formed understanding of how HIV infects and affects members of marginalized communities. This knowledge has helped to expand my capacity for compassion, and guide my choices in interventions when working with clients living with HIV.

My aspirations are to continue to work in communities of color which can be resource poor, but languish under the crippling weight of dire need. My belief is that to help one family of color find the tools they need to address life’s challenges in a personally meaningful and empowering way, may enable them to survive and thrive as a family unit, and ultimately serve to transform the community wherein that family resides.