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HIV Glossary

HIV can be treated with ART (also known as HAART) to increase your CD4s and decrease your viral load. Confused? This brief glossary can help you with terms you might find in reading about HIV care. If you have questions, please contact us.

  • Adherence: refers to how well a person sticks (adheres) to their prescribed treatment schedule. If you don’t take your medication on the schedule the doctor recommends, HIV medication can become resistant to treatment.
  • AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This is the end stage of HIV disease, when the immune system is so damaged that the body can’t fight infection. The term isn’t used as often as it used to because medical treatment has improved for those who live in countries with health plans that can provide it . However, AIDS is still a reality for many in the world.
  • Antibody: a protein in the immune system. Antibodies to HIV indicate HIV infection.
  • ART: antiretroviral therapy, also called highly active retroviral therapy or HAART.
  • ASO: AIDS or HIV service organization.
  • CD4: immune cells that help to fight illness. HIV attacks CD4 cells.
  • Cervical dysplasia: abnormal cells on the cervix.
  • HAART: highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART, also called antiretroviral therapy or ART.
  • HCV: Hepatitis C virus is a blood-borne virus that affects the liver.
  • HIV: Human Immunodeficiency virus is the virus that leads to AIDS. A virus will live in the body for life, but can be controlled with medication.
  • HIV-positive: A blood test can indicate whether you’ve been exposed to HIV. If you produce HIV antibodies, you are HIV-positive.
  • HPV: Human Papillomavirus is a group of sexually transmitted infections- there are over 100 types! If undetected or untreated, some types can lead to cervical cancer.
  • Immune system: groups of cells and processes that work to stop invading bacteria, viruses and infection.
  • Nukes and Non- nukes: Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, types of treatment that attack HIV during its replication.
  • PID: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease results when untreated sexually transmitted infections move into the upper reproductive tract (uterus and fallopian tubes).
  • PrEP: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (prevention). PrEP is a way of a person who doesn’t have HIV protecting themselves from getting infected through the use of HIV medication.
  • Protease inhibitors: a type of treatment that attacks HIV during its replication process.
  • Resistance: a term used when HIV can replicate despite treatment being taken. HIV has become resistant to the treatments being used.
  • Safer sex: Sex that decreases the risk of transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.
  • STI/ STD: sexually transmitted infections or sexually transmitted diseases (both terms are used)
  • TasP (Treatment as Prevention) Using HIV treatment as a way to prevent those with HIV from transmitting to uninfected partners.
  • Viral load: a measure of the amount of HIV in your blood. Viral load testing does not measure levels of HIV in semen, vaginal secretions or breast milk, and these levels can differ from the amounts found in blood.

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