Category Archives: Stigma

Preferred Language 101

We use language in everything we do and the language that we use may allow others to be stereotypical when it comes to us who are affected by HIV. People copycat the language that is used, first by us, and then from the media, doctors and other people that we admire.

Most of the time language is used incorrectly, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident -thereby lack of education. It also carries stereotypical factors and concepts.  This language alienates those affected by these messages.

Since the beginning of HIV and AIDS we have seen and heard stigmatizing messages, which change the way we feel about ourselves.  We say we are trying to improve this, but people are still doing the same thing. In order to use better language, we must become more educated and share what we have learned. Terminology is important–from the words we speak to the illustrations that we paint.

Recently, many groups have surfaced that explicitly discuss new and upcoming HIV-related terms. According to some articles, “Preferred Language” helps remove judgment from the individual and rather, focuses on the individual.

There are some words that people use that may be demeaning and cause stigma, and then there are the “Preferred” words that may be used instead that are less harmful, with a meaning that is more understandable.  Try changing your terminology, which can change the way you think.

Stigmatizing words Preferred Language
HIV patient Person living with HIV
Died from AIDS Died from AIDS- related illness
HIV Virus  HIV (otherwise it is a redundant use of HIV)
Prostitution or prostitute  Sex worker or sale of sexual services
Became infected Contracted/Acquired


Can you think of some stigmatizing language along with its ‘Preferred Language” that can be used instead? 

For further information, check out the discussion in Poz:

or more terms at:


Finishing School With HIV

Living with HIV presents its own sets of challenges, but when you add school and homework to the mix it can make life even more difficult. I had to take 2 years off of school when I developed HIV-related cancer, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and for the moment HIV had won out against my determination to finish school. Beating the cancer was challenging in itself, and I was really too sick and tired to even think school-related thoughts. After I went through chemo, surgery, and had been in remission for some time, I started to think about school and how to pick up where I left off. I was a year in remission when I re-enrolled to finish my A.A. degree and get my life moving forward again.

My point is that everybody, especially those living with HIV and other chronic illnesses, can face their greatest challenges and still come out fighting on the other side. You might leave some pieces of yourself behind in that dark time, but everybody has something to live for. For me, that was my family and finishing my schooling. No matter what it is you are fighting for, just remember that there are others fighting alongside of you. Everybody might be fighting for different things, but at least you are fighting!

LTAI World AIDS Day Event

In partnership with the Florida Museum of Natural History the women of Let’s Talk About It (LTAI) held a special event to commemorate World AIDS day (Monday, December 1st). Darcie MacMahon, head of exhibits and public programs, welcomed participants on this special commemorative event. Throughout the afternoon, local community leaders and peer advocates shared their testimonies and encouraged everyone to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The butterfly has been a long standing symbol for the women of LTAI. Just as caterpillars experience a transformation, the women of LTAI have also endured tremendous journeys to become the strong beautiful women that they are today! A special recognition was given to one of the members of LTAI who created a beautiful piece of art portraying the transformative process which many of the women identify with.

The afternoon ended  with a tour of the butterfly rainforest, where the LTAI women had a chance to delight in the beauty of thousands of different butterflies in the company of their peer advocates. This event also marked the launching of the second LTAI magazine, Let’s Talk About It: Put Yourself First, written by the peer advocates of LTAI.

If you would like to read the article about the event published in the Gainesville Sun please click the following link:

We would also like to share with you the photo gallery of the event at the following link:

If you would like to know more about LTAI and our monthly meetings or how you can get a copy of the second LTAI magazine please let us know in a comment below or give us a call at 352-372-1095, we’d love to hear from you!

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the women at LTAI wanted to share with you some words of encouragement about this topic.

It is important to remember that for many survivors of domestic violence, gathering the courage to speak up takes support and encouragement from others. All of us can find ways to raise awareness about domestic violence and ease the pain and stigma for those that we may know who are survivors. Remember, as many of our LTAI women have said “you are never alone!”

Thoughts from a peer:

“It’s not your fault and never let anyone take your voice. You are not alone and there are people, men and women that you can talk to, so never feel like you are all by yourself. We all deserve love without pain. If love gives you pain, you don’t need it. Pick yourself up and speak out. It’s hard to speak up but love yourself enough to speak up. You are your first line of defense. “

In what other ways can we show support to survivors of domestic violence? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below!

Advice from a Caregiver: Part 4

Today we conclude our “Advice from a Caregiver” series and our final question is about the importance of educating others about HIV. One caregiver shares how HIV doesn’t discriminate and it can affect anyone both directly and indirectly. As we conclude this series let us think about how we can work to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS so that we too can be supportive friends, and advocates

What message do you share when educating others?

“You can learn a lot from people with HIV. I think no matter what, education is key. You see their perseverance and how they deal with life, dealing with the stigma and what they are able to overcome. It should be your number one goal to reduce that stigma because HIV can affect anyone. That’s my message when I go out and talk about HIV. I say that it can affect anyone, you are not out of the range [of infection], and no one is invincible. HIV/AIDS doesn’t discriminate and it could be your friend, your brother, your sister, your mom or your dad. Anyone in your life can get it! How are you going to react to that?”

Do you have any extra tips on how to reduce the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS? Share with us your thoughts and comments below!

Click on the links to see PART 1, PART2, or PART 3!

Facing Disclosure

When I was first diagnosed with HIV in August of 1996, I was 29, hooked on drugs and alcohol. I thought I was handed a death sentence; I hid my status for 13 years. Sometimes I felt that I was not worthy to live. I carried on as if I didn’t have it. I’d hide doctor’s appointments and rip labels off my medications, stashing them deep in my closet.

One day, after a three-day crack binge, I decided to get sober. I went into Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve Step program of recovery. It was during my 4th step of Alcoholics Anonymous that I revealed my status to my sponsor. She is Hepatitis-C positive and I felt somewhat safe. She didn’t run away. Instead, she gently hugged me while crooning how much she loved me until the tears were spent. She suggested reaching out and finding others like me. That was February 5th, 2010. I continued to disclose, one by one, and had many positive experiences. So, I disclosed at a 12 step meeting with a desire to help others in the rooms. The following day, after my disclosure, I had two phone calls from that meeting. One girlfriend said “I am so proud of you and want you to know that you are always welcome in my house.” The next call was similar, except this woman was Hepatitis-C positive and had been hiding it for years. She wanted care, but was emotionally broke! It was a relief to put my fears away and trust in God. I was even able to help her!

If, or when, I meet someone ugly or cruel to me, I realize that person is the loser, not I! This is a good day in the world of HIV. I often feel grateful to have contracted this virus, especially after my rapid disclosure. I organized my priorities; my motives are pure. I want to help others and I had to get myself out of the way! This took two years!

What’s the bottom line? Everyone must move at their own speed; fear can stop us! I’ve turned fear into courage. Life IS good.

With Understanding Eyes

 Today an LTAI member shares with us what having HIV has taught her about being understanding of others.

“As a women living with HIV, I have learned a lot about tolerance and understanding. Having HIV, I have been on the receiving end of discrimination, and the stigma is always present. I know what it’s like to be judged based solely on that fact. I have learned never to judge other people because of the hurt it can cause them. I try to practice tolerance whenever I can.

When you have HIV, you look at the world differently and you are more sympathetic to other people and their disabilities. I believe HIV gives me a great deal more empathy than I would normally have. It gives me strength to look at a person from the inside out, and to see them with understanding eyes.

I always try to see the other person’s point of view before I render judgment. HIV has taught me that people deserve a chance and that there is no greater strength than knowledge and understanding.”

What are your thoughts about tolerance?    Write us a note in the comment box!!

Taking A Stand

Today is Thursday, which means it is time to Take A Stand!


Taking a Stand:

In my life!

In my family!

In my community!

In my church!

As LTAI Peer Advocates we want to remind you that Taking A Stand is something that we can do anywhere!

If you have an issue you are passionate about, share it – with your family community, church and anywhere else you can think of! Advocacy is about making our voices heard and getting your message to as many people as possible!

And, don’t forget, you can share how you are Taking A Stand! It’s easy–just send us a photo of your message and your feet and we’ll post your own Taking a Stand on the blog! Email photos to:

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Today we share a beautiful poem written by one of our LTAI blog readers, Ellen, titled “Stigma”. We hope you enjoy it and please share your thoughts and comments below!


All eyes averted
Anywhere but on the spot
You occupy as no one
Wants to look mortality
In the face
Better to stare
At what’s comfortable
Like a speck of dust
On the floor
While thinking you got
What you deserve
For making one mistake
Or no mistake at all
Judged by standards
That make others feel better
In their own skin
While struggling to live
In yours

If you have something you would like to share with the LTAI blog community – a post, inspirational quote, video, etc. – feel free to submit it through our Suggestion/Submission Box. We’d love to post it!