January #120 : Doctor's Diary - January 2006 - by Barbara Johnston, MD

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Table of Contents

Out in Africa

2006: Making Resolutions That Stick

Doctor's Diary - January 2006

Boiling Pointers

Juiced for Health

A Smarter Smear

Kinks in the Pipeline

Meds: The Sequel

Ask the Sexpert - January 2006

Breaking Out

Chicken Little

Catch of the Month - January 2006

Employee of the Month - January 2006

A Higher Education

What C2EA meant to me

Sex and Sickness in the City

So Many Men, So Little Time

Exhibit AIDS

Alternative Scene

Buzz - January 2005

High-definition HIV

A Perfect Threesome

Mentors - January 2006

Relaxed Security

Mailbox - January 2006

Editor's Letter - January 2006

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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January 2006

Doctor's Diary - January 2006

by Barbara Johnston, MD

Enough about me, doc—let’s talk about you

“Dr. J., me and my boyfriend were wondering: Are you married?” said Marcos, or Mr. Cruz, as I call him in the office. As a rule, I use patients’ surnames. Many feel more comfortable calling me “Doctor,” so it seems only fair to say “Mr.” in return. Mr. Cruz discovered I have a daughter. Much as he’s been in the office lately—between an unusual HIV-related blood disorder and a torrent of gallstones—he’s caught me answering cell-phone calls from an angst-ridden adolescent. Between clinic visits and hospitalizations, we’ve gotten to know each other.

“Married? That’s kinda personal, right?” I said.

There it was—that imbalance. I probe a patient’s most intimate bodily functions and sexual practices. Is there a problem with them knowing more about me?

Bending boundaries is risky. If doctors get too close to the person, our emotions may disrupt the clear thinking and action we’re trained for. Then there’s self-preservation: We must maintain enough distance to leave room for our families—and to have lives of our own. Plus, patients need to be able to bring up anything from cranky bowels to a sore in a sensitive site. If I’m a friend, that’s harder.

But relationships with HIV patients are special. Few other conditions involve such a long-term, sustained partnership, facing a life-threatening virus that requires all our concentration. Over the long haul, we need to be able to laugh together, celebrate victories, even open a few doors.

So I smile and say, “No, I’m not married” and go on to check his blood pressure.

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