terre thaemlitz writings

- Terre Thaemlitz

1993 (comatonse.com). Most of this information was written in committee with others, and Terre is not the sole author. Please note that this information was compiled during the late '80s and early '90s, and some of it may be out of date (statistics, etc.). However, most information is general enough that it is still relevant. In particular, the "HIV/AIDS Lexicon" remains as important as ever. The old "HIV/AIDS Resources" section has been deleted since HIV and AIDS related organizations and referral agencies are easily located through current internet search engines.

introduction | transmission | prevention | testing | lexicon
hiv/aids lexicon

The following terms are frequently used by people when talking about HIV and AIDS, despite the fact that they contain misleading or strongly moralistic connotations. This lexicon explains why the use of such terms is undesirable, and provides preferred terminology when possible.

Terms To Watch Out For

AIDS Victim. Preferred: Person With AIDS [PWA] or Person With AIDS Related Complex [PWARC]. PWA/PWARCs are not victims. The word "victim" does not encourage hope, nor does it empower PWA/PWARCs to take an active role in the management of their lives. People who are living with AIDS have control over their lives.

AIDS Virus. Preferred: HIV. Even though the term "AIDS Virus" is still widely used by the media, it confuses HIV infection with a diagnosis of AIDS.

AIDS Test. Preferred: HIV Antibody Test. The test does not diagnose AIDS, but tells whether one has developed the antibody in her/his blood as a result of HIV infection.

IV Drug Abuser. Preferred: IV Drug User. If one chooses to use the word "abuser," an HIV prevention message will not necessarily reach people who use IV drugs and consider themselves recreational users, and not abusers or addicts. Therefore, they may not see themselves as engaging in high risk behavior when they share needles.

High Risk Group. Preferred: High Risk Behavior. The word "group" implies that some kind of demographic trait, rather than behavioral practice, is responsible for HIV infection.

General Population. The term implies White, middle-class, non-drug using heterosexuals, and it artificially divides American people into those who have the virus and those who do not. Remember, everyone who has HIV/AIDS, regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender or how she/he is exposed to the virus, is a part of the "general population."

Intimate Sexual Contact. A polite term that does not indicate specific sexual practices. The word "intimate" has different meanings according to who uses it. For example, some people consider kissing as intimate, while others consider unprotected anal/vaginal sex as intimate.

Innocent Victim. Often used to describe children who have AIDS. The term implies that they are the victims of adults' irresponsible behavior. HIV infection occurs when information on transmission is not correctly distributed. Therefore, all people who are infected with HIV, and people who have AIDS, are innocent.