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British Columbia's Centre for Disease Control has just released a new guide aimed at reducing the stigma, fearmongering, and exclusion it believes are associated with terms related to the coronavirus.
The guide is a full and comprehensive 38 pages long, and addresses possible terms and situations where alternate language is considered by the BC authorities as more appropriate.
One example given in the guide is to get rid of the words "infected," and words related to it, such as "infection" or "infectious." The guide recommends using terms like "COVID-19 virus transmissions" instead, to avoid stigmatizing people who have the virus, and making them seem unclean or threatening to others.
Harlan Pruden, one of the authors of the guide, stated, "The word infection may carry a stigma or stigmatizing language about being contagious or a threat or unclean."
"It is just reframing, what we're trying to do is dispel stigmatizing and fear-based language," Pruden went on to comment.
The creation of this guide was prompted by a survey done a few months ago by the BC CDC, where it was found that certain segments of the population felt more stress and greater stigma related to the virus than others.
The guide suggests that instead of the word "risk," these terms should be used: "(Increased or decreased) likelihood, chance more or less likely to have/ experience severe illness More likely or less likely for transmission/ spreading."
Instead of "lifestyle factors" or "risk factors," people should say "People who live in long-term care facilities" or "chronic conditions."
Instead of "hard to reach individuals or populations," one should say "Hardly reached or unsuccessfully engaged," to "put the onus on the health sector rather than an individual."
Instead of "crisis," "prevent COVID-19" should be the term employed.
The CDC states that terms used to describe race or ethnicity should always be capitalized. As opposed to describing people as "immigrants, foreigners, migrants," people should use the phrase "new to Canada" or "newcomers."
"Person who smokes drugs / substances" is preferable to "drug abuser" in that "Person-first language emphasizes humanity."
The CDC also took this opportunity to clarify the many genders and sexual orientations that people should be aware of when describing a person, and explores how to use the right pronouns, not just for COVID-19 patients, but for everyone.
The CDC suggests that a person who is introducing themselves to another should say "Nice to meet you _____, my name is _____; I use she/her pronouns. What's your name and what pronouns do you go by?" This is in order to make everyone feel more comfortable. "Men and women" is out in favour of "folx,"
The CDC, which last month offered the COVID-19 safe sex tip of using "glory holes," has now decided that "Condomless sex or Sex without the use of prevention tools" is a better way to say "Unprotected sex" or "Unsafe sex" to destigmatize unsafe sex.
Instead of the common, anatomical names for male and female genitals, the CDC recommends that "Internal genitals" and "External genitals" would be preferable. "Chestfeeding" is preferable to "breastfeeding," and "pregnant person" replaces "pregnant woman."
The guide attempts to destigmatize not only terms surrounding the pandemic and its contagion, but a wide assortment of other terms as well by giving its readers more sensitive and inoffensive alternatives to certain terms, as well as to avoid potential misinformation or misunderstandings.
The idea is that individuals, especially potentially stigmatized individuals, should come to understand their options so that they can act accordingly regarding their risks and the virus, hopefully in a rational and objective manner, and not out of fear or shame.
According to Pruden, "What we're doing is using a more precise language of who are we talking about and we are using the most inclusive language by the community that would like them to be addressed that way."
It is unclear as to when these new terms will be deemed inappropriate and offense and need replacing themselves.