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The term "victim" is not an insult to those who have AIDS

I was surprised to read in Kristen Gardner's and Rachel Harmon's letter ["Headline dehumanizing to people with AIDS," Oct. 31] that a "victim is not a person" but "a being characterized by illness." This is not my idea at all of what the word victim means. After all, there are victims of love, victims of circumstance, mugging victims and earthquake victims, all of whom are most definitely persons and many of whom are not ill. So I checked a handy dictionary and found one definition of a victim as "one who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency or condition." There is no hint of the term victim connoting a dehumanized state; AIDS would seem to qualify as a victimizer under that definition.

The authors of the letter also propose another idiosyncratic definition: " `Victim' blurs the line between illness and death," apparently because we call both living and dead people victims. The authors call both the living and the dead "people." Are they too guilty of blurring the line? Do they mean that anyone we call a victim we think of as dead?

(On a side point, while I would hardly use the term "death sentence," the unfortunate and sad truth seems to be that everyone who has AIDS will die of it, as over half of the people diagnosed with the disease already have, unless we find a cure. This is not a myth and we should not blind ourselves to that reality.)

Apparently, The Tech's editor in chief was as baffled as I, but the authors say that even if he did not understand why he should have not used the term "victim," he should have been sensitive to those who were and not have used the word. Contrary to their claim, this is hardly similar to calling your friend a nickname which offends him or her. "Victim" is a perfectly good English word which neither denotes nor connotes what Gardner and Harmon believe. If they choose to redefine the word, it is not the responsibility of The Tech's editor, or anyone else for that matter, to recognize their definition. If there is any misunderstanding here, it is not on the part of The Tech but rather on the part of Gardner and Harmon, who seem not to know just how to define the word "victim."

John Muccigrosso G->