HIV Activists, Organizations Call for Less-Stigmatizing Language
February 12, 2016
Despite what your mother taught you about sticks and stones, words can and often do hurt. To combat language that promotes HIV stigma, many groups and activists are calling for a shift in the conversation.
"The language we use to describe HIV can either empower or stigmatize people living with HIV," lead author Vicki Lynn, MSW, MPH, and five co-authors wrote in a sign-on letter to promote the use of preferred language.
HIVE, the Positive Women's Network - USA and several other HIV activist organizations have signed on to the letter in an effort to end stigmatizing language when referring to people living with chronic medical conditions like HIV.
"Researchers, clinicians, advocates and other professionals often use terms such as 'HIV infected' and 'HIV infections' which further stigmatize PLHIV [people living with HIV]," the letter states. "Being referred to as 'infected' repeatedly by medical professionals, the media, and others begins to have negative consequences on a person's self-worth and confidence."
Using what is called "People First Language" can shift the conversation from talking about the disease back to the person, the letter says. According to the letter, this shift can help to eliminate prejudice and remove value judgments about the person.
People First Language isn't limited to medical conditions -- it calls for the use of other non-judgmental terminology regarding lifestyle choices, household compositions and living arrangements that askew societal norms.
Examples of preferred language cited within the sign-on letter include:
Althea Fung is the community editor for TheBody.com. For her thoughts on the healthcare industry, food and other random musing, check out her personal website, follow her on Twitter or stalk her on Facebook.
This article was provided by TheBody.
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