How do women cope economically with HIV/AIDS? This is the focus of a first-of-its-kind study, and the findings could influence the current health care debate, LiveScience reported.

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, PhD, associate professor of African-American studies and sociology at Northwestern University, is doing a two-year examination of the issue. Her goal is to discover what economic circumstances allow infected women to most effectively manage their health and still be active contributors to society.

Previous academic work by Watkins-Hayes showed that economic stability was vital to women living with HIV/AIDS finding resilience despite their circumstances. For that study, most of the women received health and social services via the Ryan White Care Act, the biggest provider of assistance for people living with the virus.

“When they didn’t have to worry about where their medication and other basic needs were coming from, they could focus on their families and personal wellness,” Watkins-Hayes said. “But that is not the case for everybody living with HIV in the U.S.”

In the new study Watkins-Hayes will explore economic resources that help women efficiently monitor their health.

According to the article, women without stable incomes large enough to cover their expenses may be more likely to focus on acquiring resources to survive rather than protecting their health. This puts them in situations where they could be exposed to things that further the spread of HIV/AIDS, such as drug use, non-monogamous partners or sex work.  

“When we know what works, then we can figure out how to intervene with policy and programs to keep this epidemic from exploding completely,” Watkins-Hayes said.

Want to know how the study turns out? Then watch for Watkins-Hayes’ website and policy briefs where you can track the progress of her work.

Click here to read’s POZ Focus about available financial assistance for people living with the virus.