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#WorldAIDSDay: how to change the way you talk about HIV/AIDS

A red ribbon is one of the symbols of World Aids Day
A red ribbon is one of the symbols of World Aids Day
World Aids Day

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HIV/AIDS is not the killer it once was in the 1980s. Or is it?

News about the virus now isn't as widespread as it was in the 1980s, when details and deaths were splashed on front pages everywhere.

Meanwhile, drugs like Truvada are slowing its spread, and those with HIV are able to manage the virus through treatments.

But the U.S. government still calls HIV an epidemic. Also, the number of people who have died from AIDS complications every year has not significantly dropped in nearly 20 years.

However, what has changed is the way we talk about HIV/AIDS.

"Gay disease," "unclean" and "safe sex" are some of the phrases KPCC listeners recall hearing in the 1980s.

Amity Grimes was a newly minted nurse in 1985, and she remembered hospital staff saying, "Only members of the '4H club' were likely to get aids: Homosexuals, Hemophiliacs, Haitians, and Heroin addicts."

"I think there was a little bit of blaming," says Grimes.

"We had a lot of stigmatizing language around infected, contaminated, dying of AIDS," says Diane Anderson-Minshall, editor-in-chief of Plus magazine.

There are many phrases she says the public and journalists should and should not use when talking about HIV/AIDS.