Alliance India Terminology Guideline

Use the term that is most specific and appropriate in the context to avoid confusion between HIV (a virus) and AIDS (a clinical syndrome). Examples include ‘people living with HIV’, ‘HIV prevalence’, ‘HIV prevention’, ‘HIV testing and counselling’, ‘HIV-related disease’, ‘AIDS diagnosis’, ‘children or phaned by AIDS’, ‘AIDS response’, ‘national AIDS programme’, ‘AIDS service organisation’. both ‘HIV epidemic’ and ‘AIDS epidemic’ are acceptable, but ‘HIV epidemic’ is a more inclusive term.
AIDS virus
There is no AIDS virus. The virus that causes AIDS is the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).Please note that ‘virus’ in the phrase ‘HIVvirus’ is redundant. Use ‘HIV’.
No one is infected with AIDS; AIDS is not an infectious agent. AIDS describes a syndrome of opportunistic infections and diseases that can develop as immunosuppression deepens along the continuum of HIV infection from acute infection to death. Avoid ‘HIV-infected’ in favour of person living with HIV or HIV-positive person(if serostatus is known).
AIDS test
There is no test for AIDS. Use HIV test or HIV antibody test. For early infant diagnosis, HIV antigen tests are used.
AIDS victim
Use person living with HIV. The word ‘victim’ is disempowering. Use AIDS only when referring to a person with a clinical diagnosis of AIDS.
AIDS patient
Use the term ‘patient’ only when referring to a clinical setting. Use patient with HIV-related illness (or disease) as this covers the full spectrum of HIV-associated clinical conditions.
Risk of AIDS
Use ‘risk of HIV infection’ or ‘risk of exposure to HIV’ (unless referring to behaviours or conditions that increase the risk of disease progression in an HIV-positive person).
High(er) risk groups; vulnerable groups
Use key populations at higherrisk(both key to the epidemic’s dynamics and key to the response). Key populations are distinct from vulnerable populations, which are subject to societal pressures or social circumstances that may make them more vulnerable to exposure to infections, including HIV.
Commercial sex work
Preferred terms are sex work, commercial sex, or the sale of sexual services.
Prostitute or prostitution
These words should not be used. For adults, use terms such as sex work, sex worker,commercialsex,transactional sex, orthesaleof sexual services. When children are involved, refer to commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Intravenous drug user
Drugs are injected subcutaneously, intramuscularly, or intravenously. Use person who injects drugs to place emphasis on the person first. A broader term that may apply in some situations is person who uses drugs.
Sharing (needles, syringes)
Avoid‘sharing’ in favour of useofnon-sterileinjecting equipment ifreferring to risk of HIV exposure or use of contaminated injecting equipment if the Equipment is known to contain HIVor if HIVtransmission occurred through its use.
Fight against AIDS
Use response to AIDS or AIDS response.
HIV prevalence rate
Use HIV prevalence. The Word ‘rate’ implies the passage of time and should not be used in reference to prevalence. It can be used when referring to incidence over time e.g. incidence rate of 6 per 100 person-years
Antiretroviral therapy (ART)

ART medicine

ART treatment
Out Reach Worker
Outreach Worker (ORW)

Sushma, an outreach worker with Vihaan programme delivered ART medicines to Mohan.

Outreach workers motivate people to go for HIV tests.
Female Sex Worker

Virtual Women
Sex Workers, Female Sex Worker

Women in Sex Work operating virtually

Sex Worker


Third Gender

Transgender People (Umbrella Term)

Transman, Transwoman for individuals

Whenever possible use the term preferred by individuals, such as - Hijra, Kinnar, Aravani, Kothi, Shiv-shakthis, or Jogti hijras
Queer Community
Sexual preference
Sexual orientation
Drug user; drug abuser; druggo; druggies; drug fiend
People/person who use/s drugs
Injector; junkie; smack- head; injecting drug user; meth-head
People/person who inject drugs
Recreational drug user
People/person who use/s drugs occasionally or opportunistically
Addict; drug addict; drug abuser; problem[atic] drug user; misuser; substance abuser; person who is addicted
People/person with drug dependence
Addiction; drug addiction; substance abuse; substance use disorder
Drug dependence
Client/s; service user/s
Relapse; non-abstinent; fallen off the wagon; using again; had a setback; lost cause
Currently using drugs
Clean; sober; drug-free; ex user; in recovery; maintaining recovery; exalcoholic
People/person who has used drugs
Clean/dirty urine/blood
Positive/negative drug screen; Presence/absence of drug metabolite in screening process
Drug using population[s]; affected communities; vulnerable populations
Communities (of people who use drugs); Networks (of people who use drugs); Peer-led networks
Client/s, Beneficiaries
Communities we work with (PLHIV, PWUD, MSM, Transgender People, Sex worker) Or Communities we serve Use ‘client/s’ in reports shared with donors and stakeholders only.

Partly adapted from UNAIDS and The International Network of People who Use Drugs
Last Updated: August 2020

Alliance India