Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

In case anybody wanted to know what I do for a living . . .

Right now I have funding to do a study called Explanatory Models if Illness and Decision Heuristics in HIV Care. What I'm doing in this first stage is having semi-structured interviews (that means essentially a guided conversation, no check boxes or fill in the blanks) with people living with HIV, in which I ask them what their concept is of HIV, HIV disease, and treatments, and how they work, and why they should or should not take the pills, etc. This is actually very important because over the years I've found that a lot of people have theories about all of the above which don't correspond to the theories their doctors have, and which cause them not to take the pills regularly, which their doctors think is a really bad idea.

I am also involved in a project where we are training physicians in a counseling technique called Motivational Interviewing, to see if they can't learn how to do a better of job of counseling their patients about taking pills and other health related behaviors. Mostly, before we train them, they just scold people, which doesn't work.

I have also developed methods for coding and analyzing clinical communication. We're steadily publishing papers from that work, and they tend to prove what I said in the preceding paragraph.

I'm curious, in case anybody wants to play this game. How would you explain what a virus is? How does it reproduce? How does it make people sick? That's in general. How about HIV? (Hint: It's different from most viruses. Do you know why?) Why can't your body get rid of it, as it does with a cold or flu? How do the drugs work to control it? Why do you have to take them right on schedule?

If you don't have a clue, that's okay too. If you think your idea is probably wrong or dumb, don't worry about it -- believe me, most people don't know the technical details, it's just interesting how folks think about it given that they weren't biology majors.

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