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cure (disabilities and illnesses)

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The goal of medical treatment for an illness is not always a complete “cure,” nor is this a possibility for every illness. For many chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes, heart disease), the aim may be to manage symptoms while monitoring progression and preserving a quality of life. Each person with a chronic illness will also have different priorities about their quality of life, so their treatment may focus on different aspects than someone else with the same illness. These differences, and the fact that a chronic illness may never be completely gone, do not mean that a person is not being fully treated for their condition. 

If a person cannot be “cured,” it does not mean that they are “not trying hard enough,” or that they failed to follow a doctor’s instructions. Similarly, while diet and exercise can be factors in preventing some chronic diseases or as part of a treatment plan, there is often no single cause and or treatment for a given illness, and stating otherwise can promote harmful stereotypes of chronically ill people. (Studies have found, for instance, that people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes reported experiencing stigma and being perceived as lazy or unintelligent.)

When covering certain illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease or HIV and AIDS, be aware that much of the focus tends to be on the search for a “cure,” though developments in treatment mean many people with HIV and AIDS can have a much higher quality of life than in the past. While breakthroughs in treatments are certainly newsworthy, it’s also important to attend to the current lived experiences of someone with an illness, and not solely on a “cure” for it. 

Also keep in mind that language around “curing” disabilities can be offensive. Choosing words like “cure” for another person, or assuming that everyone with a disability would want to be “cured,” can deny the reality of acceptance or positivity a person may feel about their condition and their quality of life. 

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Not every condition can be “cured,” nor does everyone with a disability or illness want to be “cured.” Following the person’s preferred terminology whenever possible aligns your framing with their lived experience.