08/31/2015 09:36 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why The Term "AIDS" Needs To Go!


I really hate the term "AIDS." If I had my way, it'd be done away with like the dinosaurs. You may be thinking, "that's a very bold statement." Allow me to explain. I was born with HIV in 1981 and the Term AIDS came later in 1982. In the 1980s the HIV/AIDS epidemic was about to come to global prominence. So much was unknown about the disease that changed our entire world. Unfortunately, there are still some things about the disease that the world has yet to learn, including accurate terminology concerning the disease.

The Difference Between HIV/AIDS

HIV has various stages... If untreated, HIV can spread through your body and become what is considered "Advanced." Advanced HIV is when the HIV cells take over and your white T-cells become very low. At this stage is is sometimes referred to as AIDS. If your health improves and the medicine decreases the amount of HIV detected in your body, technically you still have HIV. You may no longer be "advanced" but many individuals consider you to still to have "AIDS." It seems like we are stuck with this idea that a diagnosis of HIV vs AIDS is permanent. It is not a state of permanence, but rather a sliding scale. Not to mention, the two terms used confuses people into thinking that there are two separate viruses, HIV and AIDS. Two terms to describe one virus? Doesn't make sense to me.

To think of it another way -- Imagine if we talked about Cancer the same way we talked about HIV/AIDS. "Cancer the sickness that cause death." Now nobody in their right mind would say such a thing. Cancer can be treated just like HIV. Yet we frequently here and read "HIV the virus that causes AIDS."

The frequent use and repetition of this phrase has created the negative stigma that I am trying to combat.

Have you Eever heard an "AIDS" joke? I have, and I cringe every time. Ever here someone joke about cancer? If, and that's a big if, people joke about cancer, it isn't nearly the same as HIV jokes. Cancer has transcended humor and I wish HIV had a similar status in society. = To quote the TV show "Orange is the New Black, "Thank God I got cancer nobody fucks with Cancer."

I have lived 34 years with HIV and still going strong. We know how to treat HIV before it gets worse. The permanence of the AIDS diagnosis, even if your health improves seems pretty crappy to me. Instead of the terms "AIDS," I'd prefer the use of "Advanced HIV."

Cancer and HIV are similar in my mind. Individuals with it are both fighting their asses off to stay alive. Sometimes, I think the stigma on how people get HIV makes people not associate Cancer with HIV. Regardless of how someone got the disease, people fighting for their life deserve to be treated with respect and admired. It is difficult to carry the weight of a diagnosis with an unknown ending. People with HIV, like those with cancer, benefit greatly when they have a support system. After all, all lives matter right?

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