This article explores the use of language when discussing HIV and advocates for a shift toward more positive wording to empower HIV affected communities. The authors note that current medical language “focuses on managing, avoiding or eradicating disease,” and that it would be better to use language that concentrates on health promotion. The authors suggest specific changes in common wording, such as substituting “people living with HIV” for “HIV-infected person” or “HIV-positive person,” so that the focus is on the individual person rather than the virus. The authors also propose distinguishing between HIV and AIDS when we speak, rather than simply saying “HIV/AIDS,” in order to raise awareness and change public perceptions. These simple changes in language can both aid efforts to end HIV transmission and help eradicate the stigma attached to a positive diagnosis.
The Center for HIV Law and Policy challenges barriers to the rights and health of people affected by HIV through legal advocacy, high-impact policy initiatives, and creation of cross-issue partnerships, networks, and resources. We support movement building that amplifies the power of individuals and communities to mobilize for change that is rooted in racial, gender, and economic justice.