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What is a diagnosis? A cause, not a victim.

Watching "The Normal Heart" provides many lessons: how diagnoses are created, how they reflect the social context in which they emerge, and what is involved with public acceptance of a diagnosis like HIV/AIDS.

Other cultures have different names and descriptions for the after effects of traumatic events and different diagnostic categories for various experiences of illness. And, of course, they evolve over time. A diagnosis may be a rational way to organize research, treatment, and reimbursement for care—in short, a useful shorthand and a practical category for organizing current understanding. But let's remember that diagnoses are historically and culturally bound, and, as The Normal Heart demonstrates, they are labels that can be steeped in cultural bias and lead to discrimination. Before we name a disease or condition we have to attend to what the name we give it might mean now and in the future, and to be prepared to abandon, revise, or embellish, our initial determination.

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