Infectious is a loaded word. It immediately recalls ideas of contamination, being tainted, a threat to others, a danger,  something to be contained and controlled, with great risks . Whenever I read something about HIV or I attend a conference or a discussion around HIV this word hits me again and again. The number of HIV infected individuals, the risk of infection, the questions around how the infection is spreading, how to stop the infection, who infects who. The fear, the shame and the blame of being somebody with HIV are reinforced whenever I hear this word. I am aware that it derives from  a bio-medical description of disease,  that it merely describes an illness that can be passed by one person to another via a bacteria or a virus. But it doesn’t sound as simply a mere scientific word to me. It signals my place in the world as a person with HIV. Somebody who endangers others, who should be firstly feared and avoided. It doesn’t invite acknowledgment, solidarity, support, love. So every time I hear it I shiver. And to be sincere in most contexts I  find it so unnecessary. Why can’t I just be described as somebody with HIV, not HIV- infected? Why can’t we simply say: passing, getting, acquiring HIV? Those simple words neutralize the negative emotions that are immediately created as the letters H – I -V are uttered.  Emotions create words and words create emotions. Emotions shape our relationship with each other. If we change our language around HIV we can also change the way we live together in the world.


One thought on “Infectious

  1. Hello.
    Great blog – I wanna thank you for being brave enough to help break the stigma with your writing.

    Another word that has always annoyed me is “Acquired” in the abbr. AIDS – I mean a lot of health problems are acquired, but somewhere somebody found it necessary to point out that this is really acquired to the point of including the word in the name of the condition.. In my mind it implies that the holder of the condition has somehow acted on a desire to go out and acquire it, as you would acquire a new pair of shoes.

    I guess it is always dangerous when the cold, biological terminology enters into daily spoken language without considering what emotions it entails..

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