Here’s How To Talk About HIV/AIDS With Respect


Ever since AIDS was first recognized as a condition, both the media and the people have had a hard time talking about the subject without discrimination and prejudice. Though a defined set of rules about discussing AIDS doesn’t exist, the important thing is to treat the people living with the condition with the respect they deserve and are entitled to, just like any other human being on Earth.

The first step in talking about AIDS is to inform yourself about the syndrome and realize that HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS are not some mythical species that should be avoided and discriminated against – they are regular, normal people and have to be treated as such.

Of course, the sad truth is that mainstream media decides how AIDS will be portrayed and it goes without saying that they have contributed to the negative attitudes surrounding those afflicted by the condition.

However, nothing is black and white when it comes to this issue. Things have slowly started to change, but in order to really make a difference, everyone has to avoid stigmatizing people living with HIV.

Hollywood’s very own rock star, Charlie Sheen, told the public that he’s HIV-positive today and it seems that he’s started a serious conversation about the condition. And if you want to join that conversation, there are some things you need to know.

To begin with, we have to clarify the difference between the terms ‘HIV’ and ‘AIDS.’ HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus while AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a diagnosis. HIV-positive people whose immune systems have been severely suppressed have AIDS. All people with AIDS have HIV, but not everyone with HIV has AIDS.

You also might want to avoid labeling people as ‘drug addicts’ or ‘drug abusers’ and instead use the words ‘drug user.’ Moreover, terms such as ‘high-risk activity’ or ‘high-risk group’ are discriminating against certain groups of people and should be avoided as well. Instead, you can say that an activity is a ‘known risk factor’ and feel free to be as detailed as possible.

Furthermore, AIDS is not a disease, meaning that people don’t ‘die of/from AIDS.’ People die from AIDS-related illnesses or complications from AIDS. Also, people do not ‘treat AIDS.’ They can use medications (antiretroviral therapy) to reduce the amount of HIV in their blood, but AIDS cannot be treated or cured.

These are just some of the basic terms people should use when talking about AIDS and while not everyone living with HIV will identify with them, the point is that we as a society have to be more considerate toward other people and respect them no matter what.

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