Inclusive & Destigmatizing Language

July 6, 2020

Inclusive Language Image

One of the ways we know how to reduce the impact of HIV and Hep C stigma is by using inclusive language. Inclusive language is one of the ways we approach providing relatable and relevant information to our peers. Using inclusive language is a way we put our values – including sex-positivity, anti-oppression, and inclusiveness – into action. Being excluded from the information that is provided to us impacts our health, our ability to make informed choices, and the ways we access information and support.

These guidelines are far from exhaustive: there are many, many words used within HIV, Hep C, sexual health, and harm reduction that reflect stigma, fear, and misinformation. We welcome feedback, suggestions, and additions anytime! YouthCO is also able to facilitate workshops to provide more information as to the ways this language can be stigmatizing, and relevant alternatives for specific settings!

Thanks to the Native Youth Sexual Health Network for sharing this approach to contrasting supportive language with stigmatizing language.  Other great language resources:

*Want us to list your inclusive language resource, or have feedback about our resource? Send it to us at and we'll get in touch!

YouthCO believes that all youth have the right to accessible and affirming information about our health. We also know each of us has a unique relationship to our bodies, sex, sexuality, substance use, and harm reduction. For many of us, the words other people use for our bodies and their functions are not the words we use for ourselves. Throughout our website, YouthCO uses words for bodies and sex that we know will not reflect the full diversity of our communities. We have tried to, where possible, be as expansive with our language as we know how to while being as specific as possible. As youth leading the HIV movement, we too are learning about the best words for our experiences and do not do this perfectly. We invite any feedback about the language used on our website, in our programs, and in our resources to help us move forward in the best ways for all youth in our communities!