NIH embraces non-stigmatizing HIV language

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By Venita Ray

END HIV Houston is glad to see the National Institutes of Health (NIH) adopt stigma-reducing HIV language. Its new guidelines will reduce the stigma of HIV by using “people-first” language. This means the NIH will no longer use references like “HIV infected” when referring to people living with HIV. Instead, they will say “a person living with HIV.”

Eliminating the use of stigmatizing language is part of END HIV Houston’s plan. Being referred to as “HIV infected” repeatedly by medical professionals, the media and the public is stigmatizing. Stigma is a monumental barrier to ending the epidemic. Fighting it increases disclosure of the virus to partners and encourages testing. Language matters. Words hurt.

Steven Vargas and Shabaura Perryman, co-chairs for END HIV Houston’s Access to Care Work Group were both instrumental in advocating for change at the Houston Ryan White Planning Council and with Bristol Meyer Squibb —a leading pharmaceutical company and manufacturer of HIV medications.

This is a major accomplishment in our efforts. Thank you for hearing the HIV advocacy community, NIH.