HIV Infected Person, HIV Patient, AIDS Patient, Positives or HIVers, AIDS or HIV Carrier

Person Living with HIV

Died of AIDS, to die of AIDS

Died of AIDS-related illness, AIDS-related complications, or end stage HIV

AIDS Virus

HIV (AIDS is a diagnosis, not a virus)

Full-blown AIDS

Stage 3 HIV (Full-blown AIDS isn’t a medically recognized term)

HIV Virus


Zero new infections

Zero new transmissions, diagnosed with HIV

Number of infections

Number diagnosed with HIV/number of acquisitions

Became infected


HIV-exposed infant

Infant exposed to HIV

Unprotected sex

Condomless sex; sex not protected by condoms or antiretroviral prevention methods

Serodiscordant couple

Serodifferent/magnetic/mixed status couple

Mother to child transmission

Vertical transmission, perinatal transmission

Victim, innocent victim, 

Person living with HIV, survivor (never use the term infected when referring to a person)

AIDS Orphan

Children orphaned by loss of parents or guardians who died of AIDS related complications

AIDS test

HIV test

To catch AIDS, to contract AIDS, to catch HIV

An AIDS Diagnosis, developed AIDS, to contract HIV



Prostitute or prostitution

Sex worker, sale of sexual services, transactional sex


This is a value judgment and should be avoided. Us “having multiple partners” 

Death Sentence, “HIV is not a death sentence anymore.” “HIV does not have to be a life-threatening condition.”

HIV, chronic health condition, manageable health condition

“Tainted” blood, “dirty” needles

Blood containing HIV, shared needles

“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Authors of this person-centered language resource guide:

Vickie Lynn, MSW, MPH, Tampa, Florida – 30 year survivor; Caroline Watson, Social Justice and Communications Coordinator, HIVE, San Francisco, California; Morenike Giwa-Onaiwu, MA, Houston, Texas – 12 year survivor; Venita Ray, Houston, Texas – 12 year survivor; Brandyn Gallagher, Executive Director, Outshine NW, Seattle, Washington; Valerie Wojciechowicz, Sarasota, Florida – 30 year survivor