Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stereotyping Patients

There was an interesting article published in the New York Times a few days ago that focused on the stereotyping of patients. One of the patients described in the article served time in prison at Rikers during the 90's. He was taken in for a battery of tests and told that he had HIV. He was put on drugs for the disease but continue to show a normal T-cell range. When released, he made his way to an H.I.V. clinic to continue his care for his disease and several others like diabetes, hypertension, and Hepatitis C. But his T-cell range continued to be normal and was thought to have been a lucky "non-progressor". One of the nurse practitioners had a hunch and ran another H.I.V. test on him and found that the previous test conducted while in prison was actually a false positive.

The author of the story then asks the readers - why did the patient have to carry a false diagnosis for the last 8 years? When everything pointed to him not having H.I.V., why did medical professionals continue to think that his normal T-cell range was only an indicator that he was a non-progressor? Was it because he seemed to fit a certain picture - prisoner, tattoos infected with Hepatitis C and a drug user to boot?

What are your thoughts on this article? In your opinion, how do stereotypes affect the kind of medical attention one should expect to receive?

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