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People at an IAS conference

Language matters

At the IAS, we actively use language that puts people first. This is because words have power: they bestow or remove dignity, build or break stigma, and divide or unite the HIV response. Through the words we choose to use at the IAS, we acknowledge that a person is so much more than a condition; we promote inclusivity, dialogue and equality. Join us!

The words we use matter in the response to HIV

We stress the importance of never labelling people as "infected", of using "people-first" language.

"People-first" language puts the person before their condition: an infant exposed to HIV, for example, rather than an HIV-exposed infant.




people or person living with HIV; person or people with COVID-19; person or people with TB; person or people living with HIV and TB; healthcare seekers or clients.

label people as:

HIV-infected; infected; co-infected; cases; carriers; victims; patients; sufferers.

spell out the names of key populations:  

  • gay men and other men who have sex with men

  • sex workers and their clients

  • trans people

  • people who inject drugs

  • people in prisons and other closed settings

use acronyms for key and vulnerable populations unless you have genuine space constraints, possibly in a graphic.

talk of the response to HIV or COVID-19 and ending the HIV pandemic as a public health threat.

use war talk and fear monger.

The IAS promotes the use of non-stigmatizing, people-first language. The translations are all automated in the interest of making our content as widely accessible as possible. Regretfully, they may not always adhere to the people-first language of the original version.