News Update

UNAIDS Terminology Guidelines

khap | 2008.03.18 01:53

Summary of preferred terminology

Do not use this

Use this


Use HIV unless specifically referring to AIDS. Examples
include people living with HIV, the HIV epidemic, HIV prevalence, HIV prevention, HIV testing, HIV-related disease;
AIDS diagnosis, children made vulnerable by AIDS, cildren orphaned by AIDS, the AIDS response. Both HIV epidemic and AIDS epidemic are acceptable.

AIDS virus

There is no "AIDS virus". The virus associated with AIDS
is called the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus, or HIV. Please note : the phrase HIV virus is redundant. Use HIV


Avoid the term infected. Use person living with HIV or
HIV-positive person. No one can be infected with AIDS, because it is not an infectious agent. AIDS is a surveillance definition meaning a syndrome of opportunistic infections and diseases that can develop as immunosuppression deepens aling the continuum of HIV infection from primary infection to death.

AIDS test

There is no test for AIDS. Use HIv or HIV antibody test.

AIDS sufferer

or victim

The word "victim" is disempowering. Use person living with HIV. Use the term AIDS only when referring to a person woth a clinical AIDS diagnosis.

AIDS patient

Use the term patient only when referring to a clinical setting. Preferred : patient with HIV-related illness.

Risk of AIDS

Use risk of HIV infection ; risk of exposure to HIV.

High(er) risk groups;vulnerable groups

Key populations at higher risk (both key to the epidemic's dynamics and key to the response)

sex work

sex work or commercial sex or the sale of sexual services.


Use only in respect to juvenile prostitution; otherwise use sex worker.

drug user

Use injecting drug user. Drugs may be infected subcutaneously, intramuscularly or intravenously.

Sharing (neddles, syringes)

Use non-sterile injecting equipment if referring to risk of HIV exposure; use contaminated injecting equipment if the equipment is known to contain HIV of if HIV transmission has occurred.

Fight against AIDS

Response to AIDS



HIV prevalence rates

Use HIV prevalence. The word 'rates' connotes the passage of time and should not be used here.

Acronyms and

Please spell out all terms in full. for example PMTCT should be prevention of mother-to-child transmission, etc.

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