HIV, AIDS Key Terms


Acronyms for anti-retroviral and anti-retroviral treatment. Anti-retroviral drugs inhibit various phases of the life-cycle of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), thus reducing HIV-related symptoms and prolonging life-expectancy of people living with HIV. Treatment with ARVs is also used to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child and to prevent HIV infection following exposure.


Acronym for the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in a special session in June 2001. The DOC recognizes that “realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all is essential to reduce vulnerability to HIV/AIDS” (paragraph 58).


Abbreviation for “greater involvement of people living or affected by HIV/AIDS.” The importance and benefits of involving people living with HIV or AIDS in formulating policy and delivering services has been widely recognized, first at the 1994 Paris AIDS Summit and more recently in the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS.

Global Fund
Abbreviation for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the central global mechanism for channeling funds between rich and poor countries to finance national responses to HIV and AIDS.

Abbreviation for the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, an authoritative set of non-binding legal and policy recommendations issued by UNAIDS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 1998.


Acronym for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a 5-year, US$15 billion AIDS package authorized by U.S. President George W. Bush and enacted by the U.S. Congress in 2003 under the U.S. Global Leadership on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act. PEPFAR is the largest program to combat HIV and AIDS financed by a single donor government.

Acronym for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, or transmission during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or breastfeeding. Without treatment, approximately 15-30% of babies born to mothers living with HIV will be infected during pregnancy and delivery, and a further 5-20% will become infected through breastfeeding.

Acronyms for person living with HIV or AIDS.


Stigma and discrimination
The United Nations has called stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS “the greatest barriers to preventing further infections, providing adequate care, support and treatment and alleviating impact.” Stigmatization leads to discrimination.

Stigma is “a powerful discrediting and tainting social label that radically changes the way individuals view themselves and are viewed as persons.” People who are stigmatized are usually considered deviant or shameful for some reason or other, and as a result are shunned, avoided, discredited, rejected, restrained or penalized. As such, stigma is an expression of social and cultural norms, shaping relationships among people according to those norms. Stigma marks the boundaries a society creates between “normals” and “outsiders,” between “us” and “them.”

Discrimination in the context of HIV and AIDS has been defined as “any measure entailing any arbitrary distinction among persons depending on their confirmed or suspected HIV serostatus or state of health.” Discrimination can be legitimate and illegitimate.

Illegitimate discrimination is unjustified, disproportionate, and arbitrary. A measure or an action is unjustified if it lacks rational and objective reasons. It is disproportionate if the means employed and their consequences far exceed or do not achieve the aims pursued. It is arbitrary if it seriously infringes the rights of the individual and is not necessary to protect the health of others.


Acronym for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, a consortium of eight United Nations agencies addressing various aspects of the global AIDS epidemic. UNAIDS has a small program dedicated to address the legal, ethical, and human rights aspects of HIV and AIDS.