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Living With AIDS

Monnie Callan, MSW
JAMA. 1991;265(15):1999-2000. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460150103036.
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The worldwide pandemic of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which was first manifest a scant 10 to 12 years ago, has assumed a kaleidoscope of identities. In one short decade, the name of the disease progressed from gay-related immune disease (GRID), to HTLV-III (human T-cell lymphotropic virus type III) infection, to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection, and its stages of development added yet further acronyms: ARC (AIDS-related complex) and AIDS itself. Some of these terms, though obsolete, have become enshrined in the language of bureaucracy, which defines eligibility for social services and entitlement.

The terminology of the AIDS social movement in the United States has also evolved. Social activists have rejected the pity and dependency that they believe are embodied in such terms as "AIDS victims" or even "AIDS patients." They prefer terms of empowerment and the neutral "people with AIDS" (PWAs). They eschew "innocent victims," often employed when describing


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