A lot of things have changed around HIV; we understand it better and fear it less. ART is helping it become a manageable disease. But people with HIV continue to experience the sort of stigma and discrimination we endured when it first appeared in the 1980s.
Media stories are still sensationalised. People with HIV are still referred to as ‘AIDS patients’, ‘AIDS victims’, ‘AIDS carriers’ or worse. ‘AIDS’ is regularly used as an adjective e.g. ‘AIDS child’ and often to describe those without the condition. These misuses are not only incorrect but insulting. Even well-intentioned and respected organisations produce content on the topic that can best be described as awkward.
It’s time we looked at the language we use around HIV. Some of it, such as ‘HIV/AIDS’, has served its time. ‘HIV’ alone is adequate as it encompasses all stages of the disease, including AIDS.
NAPWHA has produced a guide for those of us writing about HIV in the Australian setting. It incorporates elements from the UNAIDS’ 'Terminology Guidelines' (March 2007) and the 'ASHM style guide' (January 2007).
People may find it difficult to abandon terminology which to date has been both familiar and appropriate. We acknowledge this and join you in the challenge.
Language is a growing thing. So use this Language and Style Guide as just that… a guide.