(DO’S & DON’T’S)


Using incorrect terminology when talking about HIV and AIDS can be insensitive and harmful to someone with the virus. Even if you are in a group of friends’ company where you assume everyone is HIV-negative, remember that someone in the conversation may be HIV-positive and may not have disclosed their status.


I remember a newly HIV-diagnosed client who approached me for post-counselling, telling me about their neighbour that came for a braai (barbecue) every weekend. The host was diagnosed HIV positive through assisting a person in distress by engaging in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This neighbour would regularly rant and show disgust towards people living with HIV. This person’s insensitivity was distressing to the HIV+ host and ensured sadly, that he has not, to my knowledge, ever disclosed his status. This kind of behaviour can be detrimental to the mental and physical health of an HIV person. Be aware of the language you use when talking about HIV around anyone, as you do not know who is HIV positive and possibly struggling with their diagnosis.


If a friend or relative does tell you that they are HIV positive, allow them to talk, listen to them and be understanding of their situation.


Do not say things such as:

  • How did you get it?
  • Who gave it to you?
  • How long have you had it?
  • Why am I not surprised?


Rather ask/say:

  • How are you feeling?
  • Have you started treatment yet?
  • How can I support you?
  • Have you found a good doctor?
  • I am here for you.


Consider rephrasing your terminology when talking about HIV using the examples below to avoid promoting discrimination and misinformation around HIV.


  • Instead of using AIDS (when referring to the virus, HIV) – use HIV or HIV and AIDS (when referring to both).
  • Don’t say, ‘to catch AIDS’, ‘to catch HIV’, ‘to pass on HIV’ – Do say, ‘to be diagnosed with HIV’, ‘to acquire HIV’, ‘to transmit HIV’.
  • Don’t use the phrase ‘body fluids. – Do use, Blood, amniotic fluid, semen, pre-ejaculate, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk.
  • Don’t use words like Victims, Sufferers, Contaminated, or Sick, rather say, People/person with HIV.
  • Unacceptable phrase: AIDS patient, HIV patient, Patient. Preferred term: Person with AIDS, Person with HIV, Person living with HIV, HIV positive persons.
  • A BIG no-no: Positives, HIVers, AIDS or HIV carrier(s). Acceptable terms: HIV-positive people/person, People/person with HIV, People/ person with AIDS

Be direct, non-judgmental, and supportive.

Being diagnosed with HIV in 2004 was a nightmare as there was so much ignorance and misinformation surrounding the HIV virus by both the medical and public organisations.


I was never offered pre or post counselling for my condition. Once diagnosed, I realised what a predicament others less fortunate to access online information and counselling services must be experiencing. Sadly, as no pre, or post counselling was on offer, it left me to gather information and find ways of dealing with my diagnosis myself. I put the lack of a counselling offer, unacceptable, I might add, down to the year 2004, when diagnosed, to ignorance and uncertainty by many medical professionals, on how to proceed during this early HIV period.


I signed up to a do a Lay Counsellor and Victim Empowerment course, educating myself in the process and collecting information and skills to support others in the same predicament.


Before testing for HIV it is essential to get pre-counselling and be well-informed of the reality and practicality of what a positive outcome holds. Post-counselling is equally important as it informs you on what other resources are available and introduces ways of making lifestyle behavioural changes. 


Once you are diagnosed HIV positive and have received post counselling which includes a review of your health and medical history, a physical exam, and several lab tests, you will be another step closer to facing the World.


Furthermore, your healthcare provider will explain the benefits of HIV treatment and discuss ways to reduce the risk of passing HIV to others. 


The next step will be to have your blood counts done so that your healthcare provider can help you start the medication to treat your HIV (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) as soon as possible. Treatment with HIV medication is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long they have had HIV. 


Your blood count will be done next and include some of the following:


Viral Load

Viral load test measures the amount of HIV in the genetic material in a blood sample and indicates how much of the HIV virus is in your body. The test measures the number of HIV copies in a millilitre.


CD4 Count

The CD4 count is a test that measures how many CD4 cells you have in your blood. These are a type of white blood cell called T cells.



Untreated HIV infection can lead to loss of lean body mass and result in reduced serum creatinine pool and the serum creatinine level, affecting your kidneys. 


See https://www.aidsmap.com/about-hiv/other-blood-tests for other blood test information.


If your HIV is left untreated, it can cause substantial weight loss, often accompanied by diarrhoea, prolonged weakness and fever. HIV can also cause neurological complications with symptoms such as confusion, forgetfulness, depression, anxiety and difficulty walking. I know this as I, due to lack of medical advice on starting my medication, experienced blackouts, hallucinations, and loss of memory, amongst other acquired health challenges (I was unable to recall my four-digit pin, Doctor’s name, cell no. and more).


When coming to terms with your HIV positive status, you may find yourself shifting from your ‘normal’ mindset to cope and implement new strategies to take control. Know that there are actions you can implement to cope with your diagnosis.


  1. Talk to a counsellor or trusted friend and try to have open, honest conversations about HIV, feelings and goals.
  2. Educate yourself as much as you can with up-to-date information about the dis-ease.
  3. Being diagnosed with HIV is life-changing news. Listen and learn from people that are living openly with their HIV status.
  4. Get moving and exercise for an hour at least 3 to 4 times a week, even if it is just walking!
  5. Review your eating/diet habits and adjust accordingly. There is little or no need to change if you currently practise a healthy eating lifestyle.
  6. Get enough sleep.
  7. Adhere strictly to your medical treatment.


A chronic condition can affect anyone. How you manage your health makes the difference.


You can get cover of up to 1 million rand for your chronic health condition and up to 10 million cover for your HIV status, SMS LIVING to 33857 to find out more, I did!

Sponsored Blog

HIV: Balance & Bounce (6)

On 26 February, 2020, in HIV: Balance & Bounce, by Cindy Pivacic

There are many facets to wellness around HIV and AIDS. Here I speak with Toni Zimmermann, a long-term HIV survivor of 29 years, living an energetic and productive life.


HIV: Balance & Bounce (5)

On 26 February, 2020, in HIV: Balance & Bounce, by Cindy Pivacic

There are many facets to wellness around HIV and AIDS. Here I speak with Patronia Luzipo from Yabonga whose vision is to provide a sustainable model of holistic care and support to families and communities affected by HIV, enabling them to live independent, productive, healthy lives.

HIV: Balance & Bounce (4)

On 26 February, 2020, in HIV: Balance & Bounce, by Cindy Pivacic

There are many facets to wellness around HIV and AIDS. Here I speak with Dr. Emille Reid who is a specialist physician with an interest in Infectious Diseases & HIV Medicine. He also practices general medical-, ICU-, and Cardiac Care Medicine on an in-hospital basis.

HIV: Balance & Bounce (1)

On 26 February, 2020, in HIV: Balance & Bounce, by Cindy Pivacic

There are many facets to wellness around HIV and AIDS. Here I speak with Ryan Anderson from LabourNet and the Senior Commissioner Vusumzi Landu from the CCMA.

Living Intentionally

On 31 January, 2020, in Health and Wellness, by Cindy Pivacic

Living Intentionally after a Major Setback

How do you do that?

This is a question many people ask as they, themselves, have had difficulty coming back from a major setback, be it a health diagnosis, divorce, an untimely death in their family, job loss, and more.

There is no straight answer as we all deal with trauma differently and we all have a variety of characteristics that add or dim our ability to move forward.

Many people do not have the capacity to go it alone, so here are a few pointers to consider, if you are struggling.

Keep in mind, it is NOT a shame if you are unable to cope on your own!

Firstly, evaluate your situation and decide just when, how, what and why you require support.

Secondly, approach either a professional, mentor or trusted friend/colleague who will ensure that your discussions will be confidential.


Failure: is a part of thriving and moving forward.

Introspection: recognise that you will need time to process what has happened.

Timeout: get away from your immediate situation and do something fun OUTDOORS.

Reflect: Ask a credible mentor to give you sincere feedback on your situation and allow you to vocalise freely, offering support and encouragement on a positive way forward.

Lessons: Learn how you can use this situation to tackle potential future challenges.

Control: Consider what is in your control, if you have been unsuccessful or unproductive, read relevant books, take a course and upskill yourself in some constructive manner.

Serious: It may sound impossible, selfish and uncomfortable but put yourself in situations where you are ‘forced’ to laugh and enjoy yourself. It may be a temporary situation but will clear your mind. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Chance: Take a risk! Be adaptable and take a chance as being too cautious can lead to failure and isolation.

Positivity: A positive outlook is not easy for everyone. It is important to ‘force’ yourself into that space and it will gradually become the norm and is a critical part of moving forward.

Reflect: Reflect, reflect, reflect! Keeping a journal is one way of monitoring your progress and can provide evidence of how you have progressed as well as an archive of previous setbacks and how you dealt with a specific situation.

While setbacks can discourage you, this is also an occasion to review your current dilemma from a unique perspective, through your own, and your mentors’ eyes.

Create your own power to focus and adapt.


GET YOUR Balance & Bounce BACK!



More than my Status

On 9 March, 2016, in Health and Wellness, Speaking Engagements, Training, by Cindy Pivacic

Balance & Bounce

Being more than my HIV status and having had to deal with numerous lifestyle changes, health issues and experiences has taken this page to another level.

The fact that I have researched and adapted my lifestyle, diet and many other facets of life, has given life to the alternative services I offer.


Services & Experience:


Trauma & Lay Counsellor covering a spectrum of in-house issues relating to employee well-being.


* Healthy Eating (the why’s of obesity which leads to high BP and heart disease)

* Employee dynamics

* Bullying

* Rape and Abuse

* Alcohol abuse

* Relationships

* HIV Counselling


Furthermore, I Train and Speak on Counselling, ‘CHOICES’ and ‘HIV & AIDS in the Workplace’.




Book title: ‘Error Terror & Triumph’ Subtitle: Learn before you Leap


This talk is targeted on the youth but not exclusively as it is valuable to one and all and particularly beneficial when entering adult life and the working world, enlightening individuals of potential pitfalls, panics and pleasures that could occur and how to avoid or embrace the lesson.


Each chapter of the 26 lessons starts with a letter of the alphabet i.e. ‘A’ – Action, followed up with a factual experience.


Ending with a maximum of 140 characters which is easily shared on Twitter of the #LifeLesson I learnt from this experience.


  1. HIV & AIDS Training & Awareness


Book title: ‘The Deadly Seducer‘


An account of my story about how I came to contract HIV & AIDS and how I responded to it.


Not only am I living healthy years later, but my energetic character has been poured into helping others experiencing the same situation.


I present talks and workshops on living positively with HIV & AIDS and those, with this book and my online presence, provides me the opportunity to create awareness, give testimony concerning the HIV & AIDS pandemic, and to assist in de-stigmatising this secret killer’.


Balance & Bounce

Through the Circle of Life


Downloadable Info Kit Below:

Download (PDF, 507KB)

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