2015 UNAIDS Terminology Guidelines

21 Sep­tem­ber 2015

Analysis of evidentiary value

This report was issued by the Sec­re­tariat of the Joint Pro­gramme in the United Nations on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)–a coali­tion of 11 UN agen­cies and the World Bank help­ing to coor­di­nate the global AIDS response by engag­ing with gov­ern­ments, civil soci­ety and peo­ple liv­ing with HIV.

UNAIDS is over­seen by a Pro­gramme Coor­di­nat­ing Board com­posed of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 22 geo­graph­i­cally diverse coun­tries; the 11 UN agen­cies, includ­ing the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion, UN Women, and the United Nations Pop­u­la­tion Fund; and five non­govern­men­tal organ­i­sa­tions. UNAIDS is the only UN entity that has rep­re­sen­ta­tives of civil soci­ety on its board.

This doc­u­ment lists and defines pre­ferred lan­guage that is cen­tral to a rights-based AIDS response. To do so, it high­lights stig­ma­tis­ing and sci­en­tif­i­cally inac­cu­rate terms like “AIDS test,” coun­ters them with inter­gov­ern­men­tal evi­dence, and then offers more inclu­sive, accu­rate alter­na­tives.

Used as precedent

human rights

A human rights-based approach is a con­cep­tual frame­work for the HIV response that is grounded in inter­na­tional human rights norms and prin­ci­ples, both in terms of process (e.g. right to par­tic­i­pa­tion, equal­ity and account­abil­ity) and out­come (e.g. rights to health, life and sci­en­tific progress). HRBA addresses dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices and unjust dis­tri­b­u­tions of power that impede progress in the HIV response by strength­en­ing the capac­i­ties of rights-hold­ers to claim their rights and the abil­ity of duty-bear­ers to meet their oblig­a­tions.

key populations

UNAIDS con­sid­ers gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex work­ers and their clients, trans­gen­der peo­ple, peo­ple who inject drugs and pris­on­ers and other incar­cer­ated peo­ple as the main key pop­u­la­tion groups. These pop­u­la­tions often suf­fer from puni­tive laws or stig­ma­tiz­ing poli­cies, and they are among the most likely to be exposed to HIV. Their engage­ment is crit­i­cal to a suc­cess­ful HIV response every­where—they are key to the epi­demic and key to the response. Coun­tries should define the spe­cific pop­u­la­tions that are key to their epi­demic and response based on the epi­demi­o­log­i­cal and social con­text. The term key pop­u­la­tions at higher risk also may be used more broadly, refer­ring to addi­tional pop­u­la­tions that are most at risk of acquir­ing or trans­mit­ting HIV, regard­less of the legal and pol­icy envi­ron­ment.