Abdomen -- The part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, reproductive organs, and other organs.
Abstinence -- Choosing not to have any kind of sexual activity. Someone who practices sexual abstinence does not run any risk of contracting a STD/STI or having an unwanted pregnancy.
Acute -- Refers to intense, short-term symptoms or illnesses that either resolve or evolve into long-lasting, chronic disease manifestations.
Acyclovir (Zovirax®) -- An antiviral drug used in the treatment of herpes simplex virus 1 (fever blisters, cold sores), herpes simplex virus 2 (genital herpes), and herpes zoster (shingles); and used in the suppression of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2. Acyclovir comes in the form of pills, ointment or injection. The drug functions as a nucleoside analog, but must be converted to an active (phosphated) form by the thymidine kinase enzyme produced only by cells infected by certain herpes viruses, including varicella zoster virus (shingles) and herpes simplex-1 and -2. Acyclovir causes few side effects--occasionally nausea, diarrhea or headaches. It is now available in a generic form.
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) -- The late stage of the illness triggered by infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). According to the official definition published by the CDC, a person receives an AIDS diagnosis when he or she has a CD4 (helper T-cell) count of less that 200 and/or certain opportunistic infections common with advanced immune deficiency.
Alternative Medicine -- A catch-all phrase for a long list of treatments or medicinal systems including traditional systems such as Chinese medicine, homeopathy, various herbals and other miscellaneous treatments that have not been accepted by the mainstream, or Western, medical establishment. Alternative medicine is also referred to as complementary medicine. The designation "alternative medicine" is not equivalent to "holistic medicine," which is a more narrow term. See Holistic Medicine.
Anal sex -- When a man puts his penis in another person's anus. This is also called anal intercourse.
Analgesic -- Refers to a compound that reduces pain. Aspirin and the opiates are examples of analgesic drugs.
Antibiotic -- A substance, especially one similar to those produced by certain fungi for destroying bacteria, that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms. An antibiotic is used to combat disease and infection.
Antibody -- A disease-fighting protein in the blood created by the immune system.
Antiretroviral -- A substance that stops or suppresses the activity of a retrovirus such as HIV.
Anus -- The opening of the rectum to the outside of the body.
Asymptomatic -- Without signs or symptoms of disease or illness.
Asymptomatic transmission of herpes -- The spread of virus from one person to another during a time when a person has no signs or symptoms.
Autoinoculation -- The spread of a microorganism such as a virus from one part the body to another. Autoinoculation of herpes simplex virus (HSV) -- The spread of HSV from one part of the body to another. This can result when a person with active herpes deposits a significant amount of virus onto some other vulnerable part of the body--most often a mucous membrane.
AZT (Retrovir, Zidovudine) -- A drug used to treat HIV infection. AZT is approved for the initial treatment of HIV infection. AZT is increasingly administered in combination with other antiviral drugs. Possible side effects include bone marrow suppression leading to anemia, leukopenia or neutropenia nausea, muscle weakness and headaches.
Bacterial STD/STI -- STD/STI caused by bacteria, such as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Bacterial STDs/STIs respond effectively to antibiotic treatment, yet they remain epidemic in the population.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) -- The most prevalent cause of vaginal symptoms among women of childbearing age, BV, previously called nonspecific vaginitis, is characterized by a strong fishy odor and a gray, watery discharge.
Balanitis -- An inflammation of the foreskin and head of the penis. The inflammation can be due to infection, harsh soaps, or failure to properly rinse soap off while bathing. Men with uncontrolled diabetes are at risk of developing balanitis.
Balanoposthitis -- Inflammation of the head and foreskin of the penis.
bDNA (branched DNA) -- A test developed by the Chiron Corp. for measuring the amount of HIV (as well as other viruses) in blood plasma. bDNA is similar in results but not in technique to the PCR test.
Benign -- Not cancerous; does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.
Biopsy -- The removal of a sample of tissue that is then examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells.
Birth control -- Used to refer to contraception.
Bisexual -- A term to refer to a person who is sexually attracted to both males and females.
Bladder -- The hollow organ that stores urine.
Cancer -- A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
Candida -- A group of yeast-like fungi, in particular Candida albicans, that infect the mouth as well as other mucous membranes in the esophagus, intestines, vagina, throat and lungs. Oral or recurrent vaginal candida infection is an early sign of immune system deterioration.
Candidiasis -- An infection due to candida yeast. The symptoms of oral candidiasis (thrush) and vaginal candidiasis (formerly called monilia) include pain, itching, redness and white patches in their respective sites. Some common treatments are clotrimazole, nystatin and miconazole.
Carcinoma -- Cancer that begins in the lining or covering of an organ.
Carcinoma in situ -- Cancer that involves only the cells in which it began and that has not spread to other tissues.
Catheter -- A flexible tube that is placed in a body cavity to insert or withdraw fluids.
Cauterization -- The use of heat to destroy abnormal cells. Also called diathermy or electrodiathermy.
CD4 -- The protein structure on the surface of a human cell that allows HIV to attach, enter, and thus infect a cell. CD4 receptors are present on CD4 cells (helper T-cells), macrophages and dendritic cells, among others. Normally, CD4 acts as an accessory molecule, forming part of larger structures (such as the T-cell receptor) through which T-cells and other cells signal each other.
CD4 Cell -- A type of T-cell involved in protecting against viral, fungal and protozoal infections. Other names for CD4 cell are T-helper cell or helper T-cell.
CD4 Cell Count -- The most commonly used surrogate marker for assessing the state of the immune system. As CD4 cell count declines, the risk of developing opportunistic infections increases.
Celibate -- Choosing not to have sex or abstaining from sex.
Cell culture -- A diagnostic test for many kinds of viruses. In a cell culture for HSV, a swab of the patient's herpes lesion is placed in a dish containing normal skin cells to see if HSV will grow.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-- The federal public health agency serving as the center for preventing, tracking, controlling and investigating the epidemiology of AIDS and other diseases.
Cervical Dysplasia -- An abnormal tissue growth on the cervix which may progress to cancer if not treated in time. Cervical dysplasia is detected through a Pap test.
Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia -- A general term for the growth of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix. Numbers from 1 to 3 may be used to describe how much of the cervix contains abnormal cells. Also called CIN.
Cervix -- The lower, cylindrical end of the uterus that forms a narrow canal connecting the upper (uterus) and lower (vagina) parts of a women's reproductive tract.
Chancroid -- A highly contagious sexually transmitted disease caused by the Hemophilus ducreyi bacterium. It appears as a pimple, chancre, sore or ulcer on the skin of the genitals. The lesion appears after an incubation period of three to five days and may facilitate the transmission of HIV.
Chemotherapy -- Treatment with anticancer drugs.
Chlamydia -- The most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States. As many as 85 percent of cases in women and 40 percent of cases in men are symptomless. If undetected and untreated, chlamydia can lead to serious complications in women, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the female reproductive organs that can cause infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
Chronic -- Refers to symptoms and diseases that last for an extended period of time without noticeable change. CIN -- See Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia.
Circumcision -- A procedure to remove the foreskin of the penis.
Clinical -- Refers to physical signs and symptoms directly observable in the human body.
Clinical Trial -- A study done to test an experimental medicine in human beings to see if it is safe and effective.
Clitoris -- A female sexual organ found where the labia minora, or inner lips of the vagina, meet, partially hidden by the labia. It is highly sensitive, and can be a source of sexual pleasure and female orgasm.
CMV -- See Cytomegalovirus
Cold sores -- Otherwise known as "fever blisters" and herpes type-1 infection.
Colposcopy -- A procedure in which the vagina and the surface of the uterine cervix is examined through a lighted microscope (colposcope) for signs of cervical dysplasia or cancer. Colposcopy is a more accurate alternative to Pap smears, but requires considerably more skill to perform.
Come out -- The usually voluntary public revealing of a person's sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Complementary Medicine -- Non-mainstream health care provided in addition or instead of standard medical practice. See also Alternative Medicine.
Condom -- Male: A cover for the penis, worn during sex to prevent STDs and pregnancy. Only a latex condom is recommended for protection against disease. Female: There is also a "female condom" that lines the vagina, which is worn by the woman during sex for similar protection. Condoms are highly effective at preventing STDs and pregnancy if used consistently and correctly.
Condyloma Acuminatum -- A projecting warty growth on the external genitals or the anus caused by infection with certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is usually a benign or non-cancerous growth. Condyloma acuminatum is also referred to as genital warts or verruca acuminata.
Conization -- Surgery to remove a cone-shaped piece of tissue from the cervix and cervical canal. Conization may be used to diagnose or treat a cervical condition. Also called cone biopsy.
Contraception -- Ways to prevent pregnancy. Some forms of contraception prevent ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary), fertilization (meeting of egg and sperm) or implantation of the embryo into the uterine lining. Birth control pills, condoms, and diaphrams are some examples of contraception.
Cross-dressing -- Dressing in a manner more sterotpyically associated with the opposite sex. People who cross-dress generally have no intention or desire to change their anatomical sex, and cross-dressing does not necessarily reflect on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Cryosurgery -- Treatment performed with an instrument that freezes and destroys abnormal tissue.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) -- A herpes infection that causes serious illness in people with AIDS. CMV can develop in any part of the body but most often appears in the retina of the eye, the nervous system, the colon or the esophagus
"Date" rape -- When one person forces another person to have sex. In the case of "date" rape, the attacked is an acquainted with the victim, rather than a stranger.
Dental dam -- A sheet of latex that can be used to cover the vagina or anus during oral sex in order to prevent body fluids from passing from one person to another. It is called a dental dam because it was designed to be used for dental procedures. A substitute can be made by cutting off the tip and slitting the side of a latex condom.
Dermatitis -- Inflammation of the skin.
Dilation and curettage -- A minor operation in which the cervix is dilated (expanded) so that the cervical canal and tissue from the uterine lining can be scaped with a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette. Also called a D and C. Douching -- Using water or a medicated solution to clean the vagina and cervix.
Dyspareunia -- The medical term for painful sex.
Dysplasia -- Abnormal changes or growth of cells and tissues. See Cervical dysplasia.
Dysuria -- Painful or difficult urination. Dysuria may be due to an STD/STI.
Ejaculation -- When semen is released from the penis during orgasm.
ELISA (Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) -- The most common test used to detect the presence of HIV antibodies in the blood, which are indicative of ongoing HIV infection. One type of ELISA is the preliminary test for HIV antibodies (to detect HIV infection). A positive ELISA test result must be confirmed by another test called a Western Blot.
Endocervical curettage -- The removal of tissue from the inside of the cervix using a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette.
Endometrium -- The mucous membrane that lines the uterus.
Epithelial -- Refers to the cell linings covering most internal and external surfaces of the body and its organs.
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) -- A member of the herpesvirus family that causes one of two kinds of mononucleosis (the other is caused by CMV). It infects the nose and throat and is contagious.
Erection -- A penis that becomes stiff and hard caused by increased blood flow.
Fallopian tubes -- Tubes on each side of the uterus through which an egg moves from the ovaries to the uterus.
Famciclovir (FamvirÂ®) -- A prodrug for an acyclovir-like active compound. It is approved for treatment of genital herpes.
FDA -- The Food and Drug Administration, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that regulates the testing of experimental drugs and approves new medical products for marketing based on evidence of safety and efficacy. First episode of herpes -- The body's first encounter with a particular type of herpes simplex virus, an event that often produces marked symptoms. There are two types of "first episodes." A primary first episode describes the symptoms that appear in the person who has never been infected with either herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or HSV-2 before. It's sometimes called a "true primary." A nonprimary first episode describes the symptoms that occur in the person who has been infected first with one type of HSV and then later infected with the second.
Fomite -- An object, such as a towel, bicycle seat, or an article of clothing, that is not in itself harmful, but is able to harbor pathogenic microorganisms and thus may serve as an agent of transmission for an infection. Many people think fomites can spread STDs, but there are very few documented cases of fomite transmission of any STD.
Foreskin -- Loose skin at the head of the penis. This skin is sometimes removed in a procedure called circumcision, often performed during infancy.
Fungal Infection -- A range of distinct diseases caused by fungi. Candidiasis, cryptococcosis and histoplasmosis are examples of AIDS-related fungal infections.
Ganglion -- A knot-like grouping of the nerves that serve a particular part of the body. Gay: An adjective used to describe people whose physical and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex.
Genital Ulcer Disease (GUD) -- Ulcerative lesions on the genitals, usually caused by a sexually transmitted condition such as herpes, syphilis or chancroid. The presence of genital ulcers may increase the risk of transmitting HIV.
Genital warts -- See HPV
Genitals -- The sexual organs on the outside of the body. For a male, this is the penis and testicles. For a female, this is the vulva and clitoris.
Glans -- The head or tip of the penis.
Gonorrhea -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevtion (CDC) estimates that more than 700,000 persons in the U.S. contract gonorrhea each year. Many people who are infected show no signs of the disease. When symptoms are present, they are similar to those of chlamydia infections. Also like chlamydia, gonorrhea may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if left untreated, resulting in infertility or ectopic pregnancy. Gonorrhea can cause serious infections in infants who contract the disease from an infected mother during delivery.
Gram Stain -- A technique for preparing material for examination under a microscope. This method is used, for example, in diagnosing gonorrhea.
Granuloma Inguinale -- A sexually transmitted disease caused by Calymmatobacterium granulomatis. Causes ulcerated granulomatous lesions that occur in the inguinal regions and the genitalia.
Gynecologic oncologists -- Doctors who specialize in treating cancers of the female reproductive organs.
Gynecology -- The branch of medicine that involves care of the female reproductive system and breasts.
Helper T-cell -- See CD4 Cell.
Hepatitis -- Inflammation of the liver caused by microbes or chemicals. Often accompanied by jaundice, enlarged liver, fever, fatigue and nausea and high levels of liver enzymes in the blood.
Hepatitis A -- A self-limiting virus-induced liver disease. Hepatitis A is acquired through ingesting fecally contaminated water or food or engaging in sexual practices involving anal contact. Injection drug users who share unclean needles also are at risk. There is avaccine available to prevent hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B - A virus-induced liver disease that infects tens of thousands of Americans each year. The hepatitis B virus is found in blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. This highly contagious virus is spread through sexual contact, sharing contaminated drug needles, blood transfusions, and piercing the skin with contaminated instruments. Many people with hepatitis B have no symptoms; others experience fever, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Hepatitis B may damage the liver, putting people at risk for cirrhosis and liver cancer. Most infections clear up by themselves within four to eight weeks. Some individuals (about 10% of the cases), however, become chronically infected. There is a vaccine available to prevent hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C -- Another virus-induced liver disease. It appears to be more common among heterosexuals and injection drug users than hepatitis B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Herpes encephalitis -- A rare, severe illness that occurs when the brain becomes infected with herpes simplex virus.
Herpes gladiatorum -- The presence of herpes lesions on the body caused by herpes simplex virus infection that is transmitted usually through the abrasion of skin in a contact sport, such as wrestling.
Herpes whitlow -- The presence of herpes lesions on the fingers or toes.
Herpes Zoster -- See both Shingles and Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV).
Herpesvirus -- Any one of eight known members of the human herpesvirus family that include: herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1), herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), varicella zoster virus (VZV), human herpes virus type 6 (HHV-6), human herpes virus type 7 (HHV-7), and human herpes virus type 8 (HHV-8). Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) can cause "cold sores" or "fever blisters" on the lips, in the mouth or around the eyes. It is less commonly the cause of genital infections. Herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2) is usually transmitted sexually and generally causes symptoms in the genital area or the anus.
Heterosexual -- Sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex.
Hir -- a gender-neutral pronoun.
HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)-- According the the CDC, at the end of 2006 an estimated 1.1 million persons in the United States were living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV/AIDS. An estimated 45,000 people get AIDS each year. HIV damages the cells in the immune system that fight off infections and diseases. As the virus gradually destroys these important cells, the immune system becomes less and less able to protect against illness. Certain life-threatening infections and cancers can then invade the body, causing serious illness and eventual death. However, HIV can live in an infected person's body for years before any signs of illness appear. The virus is spread through the blood, semen and vaginal secretions of an HIV-infected person. Both men and women can pass HIV to a sex partner. The virus can also be passed from person to person through sharing needles. HIV-infected women can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Some people contracted the virus through blood products before a successful screening process was begun in 1985. There is no evidence that HIV can spread through other body fluids such as saliva, feces, urine, tears and sweat. Currently, there is no way to get rid of the virus once a person is infected. However, medications can slow the damage that HIV causes to the immune system.
Individuals with the genital sores resulting from certain STD infections are at increased risk of getting HIV infection during sexual contact with an HIV-infected person. HIV infection can complicate and increase the dangers of other STD infection.
HIV-1 -- Human immunodeficiency virus type 1, the retrovirus recognized as the agent that induces AIDS.
HIV-2 -- Human immunodeficiency virus type 2, a virus closely related to HIV-1 that also leads to immune suppression. HIV-2 is not as virulent as HIV-1 and is epidemic only in West Africa.
Holistic Medicine -- Various systems of health protection and restoration, both traditional and modern, that are reputedly based on the body's natural healing powers, the various ways the different tissues affect each other and the influence of the external environment.
Homophobia -- an irrational fear of or dislike of homesexuals.
Homosexual -- Sexual attraction to people of the same sex This term is outdated and considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people. The terms gay and lesbian should be used instead.
Hormone -- An active chemical substance formed in the glands and carried in the blood to other parts of the body where it stimulates or suppresses cell and tissue activity.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) -- According to CDC, approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and another 6.2 million people become newly infected each year. At least 50% of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. HPV is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 80 different types. Certain types of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet, while others can cause genital warts on the vulva, vagina, anus, cervix, penis or scrotum. HPV and genital warts are usually spread by direct, skin-to-skin contact during sex. Other types of HPV (not the types that cause genital warts) are strongly linked to cervical cancer. Yearly Pap tests are recommended to detect the abnormal cell growth caused by HPV that may progress to cervical cancer. If detected in time, the progression of cervical HPV can be stopped, and even cervical cancer can usually be treated successfully.
HSV -- Abbreviation for herpes simplex virus. HSV-1 denotes herpes simplex type 1, the usual cause of herpes around the mouth or face ("cold sores," "fever blisters"); HSV-2 denotes herpes simplex type 2, the usual cause of recurrent genital herpes.
Human Papillomavirus -- See HPV.
Hysterectomy -- An operation in which the uterus and cervix are removed.
Immune Deficiency -- A breakdown or inability of certain parts of the immune system to function, thus making a person susceptible to certain diseases that they would have not contracted with a healthy immune system. Immune deficiencies may be temporary or permanent and be triggered by genetic mutation, therapy with immune-suppressive drugs (as during organ transplants) or an infection such as HIV.
Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS) -- An AIDS-defining illness consisting of individual cancerous lesions caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels. KS typically appears as pink or purple painless spots or nodules on the surface of the skin or oral cavity. KS also can occur internally, especially in the intestines, lymph nodes and lungs, and in this case is life-threatening. KS frequently occurs in immuno-compromised patients, such as those with AIDS.
Killer Cell -- A generalized name for immune system cells that kill cancerous and virus-infected cells. Among the killer cells are killer T-cells (cytotoxic T-lymphocytes), NK (natural killer) cells and K-cells.
Labia -- The inner and outer folds of flesh that cover the vagina.
Laser -- A powerful beam of light used in some types of surgery to cut or destroy tissue.
Latency -- The phenomenon by which disease (such as HSV or HPV) can hide away in the nerve roots in an inactive state, only to reactivate and cause viral shedding or symptoms again.
Lesbian -- A woman who is physically and/or emotional attracted is to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay or as gay women.
Lesion -- A very general term denoting any abnormality on the surface of the body, whether on the skin or on a mucous membrane. Includes sores, wounds, injuries, pimples, tumors, on the skin or elsewhere.
Long-Term Nonprogressor -- An individual who has been infected with HIV for at least seven to twelve years (different authors use different timespans) and yet retains a CD4 cell count within the normal range.
Lubricant -- A slippery substance. Can be oil- or water-based. A vaginal lubricant may be helpful for women who feel pain during intercourse because of vaginal dryness. If using a lubricant with latex condoms, use one that is water-based, as oil can weaken the latex.
Lymph Node (Lymph Gland) -- Small bean-shaped organs made up mostly of lymphocytes, lymph fluid and connective tissue. Clusters of lymph nodes are widely distributed in the body and are essential to the functioning of the immune system. They are connected with each other and other lymphoid tissue by the lymphatic vessels.
Lymphadenopathy -- Swelling or enlargement of the lymph nodes due to infection or cancer. The swollen nodes may be palpable or visible from outside the body.
Lymphocyte -- White blood cells that mature and reside in the lymphoid organs and are responsible for the acquired immune response. The two major types of lymphocytes are T-cells and B-cells.
MAC (Mycobacterium Avium Complex) -- A serious opportunistic infection caused by two similar bacteria found in the soil and dust particles. In AIDS, MAC can spread through the bloodstream to infect lymph nodes, bone marrow, liver, spleen, spinal fluid, lungs and intestinal tract. Typical symptoms of MAC include night sweats, weight loss, fever, fatigue, diarrhea and enlarged spleen. MAC is usually found in people with CD4 counts below 100. MAC is also called MAI. Macrophage -- A large scavenger cell that ingests degenerated cells and foreign organisms. Macrophages exist in large numbers throughout the body and contribute to the development of acquired immunity by acting as antigen presenting cells. They also ingest and destroy foreign matter coated with antibody. Macrophages can be infected by HIV.
MAI (Mycobacterium Intercellulare) -- See MAC.
Maintenance Therapy -- Extended drug therapy, usually at a diminished dose, administered after a disease has been brought under control. Maintenance therapy is utilized when a complete cure is not possible, and a disease is likely to recur if therapy is halted.
Malaise -- A vague feeling of bodily discomfort and fatigue. This is a common symptom of many illnesses, including many STDs/STIs, and can often be the result of infection or a drug's side effects.
Malignant -- Cancerous; can spread to other parts of the body.
Mammogram -- An X-ray of the breast, used to detect breast cancer.
Masturbation -- Self-stimulation of the genitals for the purpose of sexual arousal and pleasure.
Memory T-Cell -- A T-cell that bears receptors for a specific foreign antigen encountered during a prior infection or vaccination. After an infection or a vaccination, some of the T-cells that participated in the response remain as memory T-cells, which can rapidly mobilize and clone themselves should the same antigen be re-encountered during a second infection at a later time.
Meningitis -- An inflammation of the meninges, the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord, usually accompanied by stiff neck and extra sensitivity to light. Septic meningitis, caused by bacteria, can be a serious condition and must be treated immediately. Aseptic meningitis, associated with viral infections such as herpes simplex virus and other causes, generally resolves by itself.
Menopause -- The time in a women's life when menstrual periods stop. Also called the "change of life."
Menstruation -- The periodic discharge of bloody fluid from the uterus occurring at more or less regular intervals during the life of a woman from age of puberty to menopause.
Metastasis -- The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another. Cells that have metastisized are like those in the original (primary) tumor.
Microbe -- A microscopic living organism, such as a bacteria, fungus, protozoa or virus.
Moisture barrier -- A material, usually latex, used during sexual activity to prevent sexual fluids or blood from passing between people. In addition to condoms for sexual intercourse, moisture barriers for oral sex include household plastic wrap or "dams," such as the SheerGlyde Dam(TM).
Molluscum Contagiosum -- A skin condition caused by a pox virus infection, distinguished by small dome-shaped papules (bumps) on the face, upper trunk or extremities. Current treatment is mainly cosmetic. It often involves application of liquid nitrogen to the papules as a means of excising them.
Mucous Membrane -- Moist layer of tissue lining the digestive, respiratory, urinary and reproductive tracts -- all the body cavities with openings to the outside world except ears.
Myopathy -- Progressive muscle weakness. Myopathy may arise as a toxic reaction to AZT or as a consequence of HIV infection itself.
Neoplasia -- Abnormal new growth of cells.
Neurologic -- Relating to nervous system, including the brain.
Neuropathy -- A disease of the nerves. See Peripheral Neuropathy.
NGU (NonGonococcal Urethritis) -- Urethritis, manifested by urethral discharge, painful urination, or itching at the end of the urethra, is the response of the urethra to inflammation NOT due to gonococcal infection.
NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) -- The federal agency that is responsible for a great deal of the government-sponsored AIDS research. NIAID is a branch of the NIH.
NIH (National Institutes of Health) -- The federal agency responsible for overseeing government-sponsored biomedical research. It is divided into 24 institutes and research centers.
Nongonnococal Urethritis -- See NGU.
Obstetrician-Gynecologist -- A physician with special skills, training and education in women's health.
Ocular herpes -- Herpes infection in the eyes.
Off-Label -- Use of a drug for a disease or condition other than the indication for which it was approved by the FDA. For example, many doctors prescribe paromomycin (humatin) for cryptosporidiosis, although it is not approved for treating this disease.
Oncologist -- A doctor who specializes in treating cancer.
Opportunistic Infections (OI) -- Infections that occur in persons with weak immune systems due to AIDS, cancer or immunosuppressive drugs such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy. PCP, toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus are all examples of OIs.
Oral-facial herpes -- The presence of latent herpes simplex infection in the trigeminal ganglion, located at the top of the spine. When reactiviated, oral-facial herpes can cause symptoms anywhere on mouth or face -- typically cold sores on the lips. Recurrent oral-facial herpes is largely caused by HSV-1.
Orgasm -- sexual climax.
Ovaries -- The pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs are formed. The ovaries are located in the lower abdomen, one on each side of the uterus.
Pap Test -- A way to examine cells collected from the cervix and vagina. This test can show the presence of infection, inflammation, abnormal cells, or cancer.
Papillomavirus -- The virus group that includes the cause of genital warts or condylomata.
Papule -- A small elevation or bump on the skin.
Pathologist -- A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
PCP (Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia) -- A pneumonia caused by an infection with Pneumocystis carinii. P. carinii grows rapidly in the lungs of people with AIDS and is the leading AIDS-related cause of death. P. carinii infection sometimes may occur elsewhere in the body (skin, eye, spleen, liver or heart). There are inexpensive drugs that can prevent and treat PCP.
PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) Test -- A very sensitive test that measures the presence or amount of RNA or DNA of a specific organism or virus (for example, HIV or CMV) in the blood or tissue.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) -- A gynecological condition caused by an infection (usually sexually transmitted) that spreads from the vagina to the upper parts of a women's reproductive tract in the pelvic cavity. PID takes different courses in different women, but can cause abscesses and constant pain almost anywhere in the genital tract. If left untreated, it can cause infertility or more frequent periods or other complications.
Pelvis -- The lower part of the abdomen between the hip bones. Organs in a female's pelvis include the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.
Penile cancer -- Cancer of the penis. A malignant growth of cells in the tissue and/or external area of the penis. Rare in most industrialized nations, it is an aggressive form of cancer occurring primarily in older men.
Perinatal Transmission -- Transmission of a pathogen, such as HIV, from mother to baby during birth.
Peripheral Neuropathy -- A condition characterized by sensory loss, pain, muscle weakness and wasting of muscle in the hands or legs and feet. In severe cases, paralysis may result. Peripheral neuropathy may arise from an HIV-related condition or be the side effect of certain drugs.
Phimosis (and paraphimosis) -- Phimosis is a condition created when a man has an extremely tight foreskin. Paraphimosis is a less common, but more serious, version of phimosis in which the foreskin is so tight that it can cut off blood flow once it is pulled back behind the glans (head) of the penis.
PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) -- A serious infection of the upper genital tract in women. It often damages the fallopian tubes, making it difficult or impossible for a woman to have children. Often there are no symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may include dull pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen, abnormal periods, abnormal vaginal discharge, nausea and/or vomiting, fever and chills.
Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia -- See PCP.
Polymerase Chain Reaction -- See PCR.
Primary HIV Infection -- The flu-like syndrome that occurs immediately after a person contracts HIV. This initial infection precedes seroconversion and is characterized by fever, sore throat, headache, skin rash and swollen glands. Also called acute infection.
Prodrome -- An early warning symptom of illness. (i.e., prodrome for a genital herpes outbreak often involves an aching, burning, itching, or tingling sensation in the genital area, buttocks, or legs).
Prodrug -- A compound that must undergo chemical conversion within the body to change to its active form that has medical effects. Prodrugs are useful when the active drug may be too toxic to administer systemically, the active drug is absorbed poorly by the digestive tract, or the body breaks down the active drug before it reaches its target.
Prognosis -- The probable outcome or future course of disease in a patient; the chance of recovery.
Prophylaxis -- Treatment to prevent the onset of a particular disease ("primary" prophylaxis) or recurrence of symptoms in an existing infection that has been brought under control ("secondary" prophylaxis, or maintenance therapy).
Protease -- An enzyme that triggers the breakdown of proteins. HIV's protease enzyme breaks apart long strands of viral protein into the separate proteins making up viral core. The enzyme acts as new virus particles are budding off a cell membrane.
Protease Inhibitor -- A drug that binds to and blocks HIV protease from working, thus preventing the production of new infectious viral particles.
Pubic lice -- Pubic lice, also called "crabs," are small parasites that feed on human blood. Pubic lice are not the same as head and body lice. Pubic lice are usually found on the pubic hair, but can be also be found on other parts of the body where a person has coarse hair (such as armpits, eyelashes, and facial hair). Most cases of crabs are transmitted through sexual contact, when the crabs move from the pubic hair of one person to the pubic hair of another.
Rape -- A situation where a person is forced to have sex against his or her will.
Rash -- A general term applied to any eruption of the skin, especially those pertaining to communicable diseases. A rash is usually a shade of red, which varies with disease and is usually temporary.
Rectum -- The last 6 to 8 inches of the large intestine. The rectum stores solid waste until it leaves the body through the anus.
Recurrence -- The return of symptoms after a time without symptoms. An example of this is outbreaks of herpes after periods of time without herpes lesions.
Reproductive system -- In women, the organs that are directly involved in producing eggs and in conceiving and carrying babies.
Resistance -- Reduction in a pathogen's sensitivity to a particular drug. Resistance is thought to result usually from a genetic mutation. In HIV, such mutations can change the structure of viral enzymes and proteins so that an antiviral drug can no longer bind with them as well as it used to. High-level resistance reduces a drug's virus-suppressing activity hundreds of times. Low-level resistance represents only a few-fold reduction in drug effectiveness. Depending on the toxicity of the drug, low-level resistance may be overcome by using higher doses of the drug in question.
Retrovirus -- A type of virus that, when not infecting a cell, stores its genetic information on a single-stranded DNA. HIV is an example of a retrovirus. After a retrovirus penetrates a cell, it constructs a DNA version of its genes using a special enzyme, reverse transcriptase. This DNA then becomes part of the cell's genetic material.
Risk factor -- Something that increases the chance of developing a disease.
Sacral ganglion -- The nerve root at the base of the spine. The sacral ganglion serves as the site of latency in genital herpes infections.
Schiller Test -- A test in which iodine is applied to the cervix. The iodine colors healthy cells brown; abnormal cells remain unstained, usually appearing white or yellow.
Scrotum -- The sac of skin that surrounds the testicles.
Selective abstinence -- Many people are sexually active but limit what they do to avoid STD/STIs and/or pregnancy or because they do not feel ready to do some sexual things. Someone who chooses to be selectively abstinent might have some kinds of sex but not others. Someone who practices selective abstinence may or may not run the risk of contracting an STD/STI and/or having an unwanted pregnancy, depending on the activities in which he or she does.
Seroconversion -- Development of detectable antibodies to HIV in the blood serum as a result of infection. It may take several months or more after HIV transmission for antibodies to the virus to develop. After antibodies to HIV appear in the blood, a person will test positive in the standard ELISA test for HIV.
Serology -- A test that identifies the antibodies in serum (a clear fluid that is a component of the blood).Seroprevalence -- For HIV, the rate at which a given population tests positive on the ELISA test for HIV antibodies. The seroprevalence rate is nearly the same as the rate of HIV infection in a given population, leaving out mainly those who were recently infected.
Serostatus -- The condition of having or not having detectable antibodies to a particular microbe in the blood as a result of infection -- for example, HSV-1, HSV-2, or HIV. One may have either a positive or negative serostatus.
Sex (gender) reassignment surgery -- Surgery to change the appearance of a person's anatomy to match as closely as possible the anatomy of the opposite sex.
Shingles -- A skin condition caused by reactivation of a varicella zoster virus (VZV) infection, usually acquired in childhood, when it appears as chicken pox. It consists of painful, inflammatory blisters on the skin that follow the path of individual peripheral nerves. The blisters generally dry and scab, leaving minor scarring. Standard treatment is with famciclovir or acyclovir.
Side Effects -- Problems that occur when treatment affects healthy cells. For example, common side effects of cancer treatment are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, and mouth sores.
Speculum -- An instrument used to spread the vagina open so that the cervix can be seen.
Spermicide -- An agent which kills spermatozoa.
Squamous cell carcinoma -- Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells resembling fish scales. Squamous cells are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts.
Squamous intraepithelial lesion -- A general term for the abnormal growth of squamous cells on the surface of the cervix. The changes in the cells are described as low grade or high grade, depending on how much of the cervix is affected and how abnormal the cells are. Also called SIL.
Staging -- Doing exams and tests to learn the extent of the cancer, especially whether it has spread from its original site to other parts of the body.
STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) -- Any disease that is acquired through sexual contact in a substantial number of cases.
STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) -- Any infection that is acquired through sexual contact in a substantial number of cases.
Symptom -- Any perceptible change in the body or its functions that indicates disease or the kind or phases of disease. Often STIs produce symptoms; however, particularly in women, there may be no symptoms.
Symptomatic reactivation -- The presence of lesions or any other symptoms caused by reactivation of herpes simplex virus; a "recurrence."
Syphilis -- A bacterial STD/STI. Syphilis progresses in three stages, with the earliest symptoms appearing in 10 days to three weeks after sex with an infected partner. If left untreated, syphilis lapses into the latent stage, during which it is not contagious and has no symptoms. About one-third of people who reach this stage will develop the severe complications of late, or tertiary, syphilis, which can result in mental illness, blindness, heart disease and death.
Systemic -- Concerning or affecting the body as a whole. A systemic therapy is one that the entire body is exposed to, rather than just the target tissues affected by a disease.
TB (Tuberculosis) -- A lung infection that occurs more often in people with weakened immune systems. TB can be easily passed to others and can lead to death if not treated. TB can be successfully treated with the right medications.
Testicles -- Part of the male reproductive system. The testicles produce sperm and the male hormone testosterone. The testicles are located inside the scrotum.
Testicular self examinations -- A self-examination of the testicles to look for any lumps that may be an early sign of testicular cancer.
Testosterone -- A naturally occurring male hormone. When administered as a drug it can cause gain in lean body mass, increased sex drive and possibly aggressive behavior.
Thrush -- See Candidiasis.
Toxoplasmosis -- A disease caused by the protozoa Toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasmosis can affect a number of organs, but it most commonly causes encephalitis (brain inflammation).
Transgender -- A term used to describe individuals who identify with a gender other than the one society expects of them, based on their genitalia and physical appearance. Transgender individuals may display characteristics (manner of dress, for example) of either gender (male or female), and may or may not choose to alter their bodies through the use of hormones or through surgery.
Transmission -- The spread of disease, including a sexually transmitted disease, from one person to another.Travesvestite -- A term once used to describe a person who chooses to dress in a way that is more typically associated with the opposite sex. This term is now considered outdated and derogatory. See cross dressing.
Trichomoniasis-- An infection with a flagellated protozoan, Trichomonas vaginalis. When symptomatic, the infection results in vaginitis in women and urethritis in men. Many infected persons, however, remain asymptomatic.
Ureaplasma -- A genus of bacteria found in the human genitourinary tract, occasionally in the pharynx and rectum. In males, they are associated with nongonococcal urethritis (NGU) and prostatitis; in females, with genitourinary tract infections and reproductive failure.
Urethritis -- Inflammation of the urethra. STDs, if they are symptomatic, often cause urethritis.
Urologist -- doctor who specializes in the physiology and pathology of the urinary and genital functions of the body.
Uterus -- The small, hollow pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis. This is the organ in which an unborn child develops. Also called the womb.
Vaccine -- A suspension of infectious agents or some part of them, given for the purpose of establishing resistance to an infectious disease. It stimulates development of specific defensive mechanisms in the body which result in more or less permanent protection against a disease.
Vagina -- The muscular canal between the uterus and the outside of the body.
Vaginitis -- Inflammation of the female vagina. More information available.
Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) -- The cause of chicken pox in children. Its reactivation in adults causes shingles (see Shingles).
Vasectomy -- A permanent sterilization procedure for males, involving cutting and sealing the vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm. The procedure prevents sperm from mixing with the semen that is ejaculated from the penis. Viral Load -- The number of viral particles (usually HIV) in a sample of blood plasma. HIV viral load is increasingly employed as a surrogate marker for disease progression. It is measured by PCR and bDNA tests and is expressed in number of HIV copies or equivalents per milliliter.
Viral replication -- The process by which a virus makes more copies of itself.
Viral STDs/STIs -- Viral STDs/STIs, including genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B, and HIV (the cause of AIDS) -- are as yet incurable, although the symptoms can be treated.
Wart -- A raised growth on the surface of the skin or other organ.
Western Blot -- A test for detecting the specific antibodies to HIV in a person's blood. It commonly is used to double-check positive ELISA tests. A western blot test is more reliable that the ELISA, but it is harder to do and costs more money..
Womb -- The uterus.
Wrestler's herpes -- The presence of herpes lesions on the body caused by HSV infection that is usually transmitted through the abrasion of skin during a contact sport, such as wrestling. Also known as herpes gladitorum.
Yeast Infection -- See Candidiasis
Zidovudine -- See AZT.
Zoster -- Acute inflammatory disease with vesicles grouped in the course of cutaneous nerves, as in herpes zoster.