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Commenting on comments

Jun 18, 2009

I travel a bit out of my way to see my long standing doctor XXXXX. I arrived a bit early, half an hour since I didn't hit traffic, so I was sitting in the waiting room reading my book. While I was there the receptionists and in nurse began talking.

Apparently XXXXX had seen a patient earlier that morning whose first HIV test turned out to be a false positive. The three women the began discussing how happy he must be (I'm sure). They continued on saying how relieved "his mama must be so relieved because she didn't raise no one to be getting infected at 17", how he was too young and how they were sure this would set him straight and change his ways now that "he got his life back".

All of this made me uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I would like to think that the healthcare professional I see don't discuss me outside of my presence. Of course, I know this isn't likely but I would still like to think it. Beyond that the gross assumptions that were made are incredible: the being HIV should legitimately disgrace your family, that it ends your life, that you are somehow a bad person to become infected, and that they are somehow superior to me.

This upset me. I was the only one in the waiting room. After a little bit I think they rerealized I was sitting there because the intake nurse sorta rushed me back to take vitals. Then they sat me in a exam room and forgot to tell XXXXX I was waiting. I was in the exam room for 50 minutes before he came in. Within this time I became more annoyed with the whole day.

I think I should have said something when XXXXX came in about the early events, but I knew I was too shaken and would start to cry. That somehow seemed so much worse. And maybe I should have said something to the receptionist on the way out (who by this point was scratching her third scratch off ticket).

The thing is, I sorta would have been immuned to this type of banter if it occurred in any other situation. But to have it occur in my doctor's office completely side swiped me. With a well respect doctor at a first rate hospital. Not that this should matter but this was not at a clinic, this was at XXXXXX suburban office park with the gold elevators and upscale coffee bistros downstairs.

Now I don't know what to do. Should I email my doctor (although he is only at this office one a week)? Should I write a letter to the hospital, and then to whom? Should I just put it behind me, since the women probably didn't mean any harm (i.e. am I over-reacting)? And for how long am I expected to do penitence for having HIV?

(I only mentioned the hospital and doctor by name because I feel that the quality of care I have received in the last decade has been very good and this situation would not be easily resolved by going to another institution.)

Response from Dr. Frascino


I've redacted the name of your physician and his institution. I know your doctor well and feel he is a very competent HIV specialist. I agree the banter you overheard in the waiting room was unprofessional. I'm sure being stuck in an examination room for 50 minutes just added to your frustration. The best way to handle this situation is to write your doctor a letter (or send him a copy of this post). I'm confident he'll share your comments with his staff as well as counsel them regarding their attitudes and behavior. I doubt it is necessary to write to the hospital, as this type of concern is best addressed by the physician in charge rather than an administrator.

Dr. Bob

First ELISA rective, CMIA and ELISA non-reactive
Begun PEP, now what?

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