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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

Bioethics: Choosing Our Words About AIDS


San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle (11/12/89), P. D-19

Accuracy, sensitivity, and objectivity are three good reasons to choose words carefully, writes Bruce Hilton, especially when discussing disenfranchised HIV-infected people. He writes that the difference between HIV-infection and full-blown AIDS is important. People with AIDS are eligible for some state and federal benefits, whereas symptom-free HIV-infected people often lose jobs through bias without legal recourse. Names of people with AIDS are reported to public health authorities; the names of HIV carriers are confidential by law. Furthermore, he writes, people with AIDS are not "victims," helpless and pitiful, so "it's time...[to] get rid of the phrase, 'AIDS victim.'" Finally, the use of the term "innocent" to denote babies born with HIV infection implies that some people are guilty, Hilton writes, an inappropriate judgment in response to illness and death and a term related to the belief that gay sex is a sin.


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