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AIDS Glossary
This glossary is adapted from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Glossary of HIV/AIDS-Related Terms
pharmaceutical abbreviation,  before eating (ante cibum)
the area of the body between the chest and pelvis. The abdominal organs include the liver, spleen and intestines.
removal or destruction of a body part.
tearing away, separation or detachment
an isolated accumulation of pus associated with a localized infection. Abscesses may result in tissue destruction, pain and swelling; severe abscesses may require surgical drainage.
absolute cd4 cell count
the number of CD4 cells in a cubic millimeter (mm3) of blood. See also CD4 cell count.
a written summary of the important points of a scientific article.
accelerated approval
FDA regulations governing early marketing approval of promising drugs for life-threatening illnesses.


acquired immune deficiency syndrome
the late stage of HIV disease. AIDS involves the loss of function of the immune system as CD4 cells are infected and destroyed, allowing the body to succumb to opportunistic infections (e.g., Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, toxoplasmosis) that are generally not pathogenic in people with intact immune systems. Common symptoms of AIDS include malignancies and wasting syndrome. The CDC defines AIDS as the presence of at least one of several opportunistic infections or the presence of fewer than 200 CD4 cells/mm3 in an HIV positive individual. (AIDS)
abbreviation,  AIDS Clinical Trials Group
ACTG 076
a clinical trial conducted by the ACTG that studied the use of AZT for the reduction of vertical (mother-to-child) transmission of HIV.
active immunity
immunity naturally produced by the body's own immune system in response to stimulation by foreign antigens. Contrast with passive immunity.
active immunization
a process by which a person is inoculated with an antigen to encourage their immune system to mount an immune response, e.g., by producing antibodies. Contrast with passive immunization.
abbreviation,  AIDS Clinical Testing Unit. clinical trial sites
a method of massage in which pressure is applied to specific acupuncture points with the fingers.
traditional Chinese therapy in which the body is pricked by sharp needles.

reaching a crisis quickly; severe.
acute retroviral syndrome
a combination of flu-like symptoms (e.g., fever, sore throat, skin rash, headache, nausea, muscle or joint pain) that accompanies primary (initial) HIV infection or occur shortly after infection. ARS is due to a cellular immune response that takes place before the immune system has had time to produce antibodies. (ARS)
acyclovir (zovirax)
an antiviral drug used to treat herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 and varicella-zoster virus infections. When used in combination with AZT, acyclovir has been shown in some studies to prolong survival in persons with HIV disease.
ad lib.
pharmaceutical abbreviation,  as much as wanted (ad libitum)
adaptive immune response
immune system activation in response to a challenge by a specific pathogen.

abbreviation,  AIDS Dementia Complex. deterioration of intellectual faculties, often accompanied by emotional disturbance. HIV is active in the brain (central nervous system) and can cause dementia, even in those with high CD4 counts and low viral loads. Treatment usually involves an anti-HIV drug -- such as AZT -- that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier.
psychological dependence on a drug. See dependence.
adenine (a)
one of the purine nucleic acid bases that make up nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and RNA. The antiviral drug ddI is a nucleoside analog associated with adenine.
adeno-associated virus (aav)
a nonpathogenic virus that may be used as a vector or delivery vehicle in genetic engineering to insert genes into cells.
enlargement of glands, especially lymph nodes.
a family of double-stranded DNA viruses that are the cause of the common cold.
something joined or added to the original. Adjunct therapy or treatment is a treatment that is given in addition to the main or primary treatment.
a substance added to a drug that increases its effect.
adjuvant therapy
a type of therapy that improves the outcome of a primary therapy, e.g., radiation and chemotherapy are adjuvant therapies in relation to cancer surgery.
adoptive immune transfer (adoptive immunotherapy)
the use of a graft of immune tissue (e.g., bone marrow) from a healthy donor to rebuild the immune system in an individual whose immune system has been damaged or destroyed. See also bone marrow transplant.
adrenal gland
an organ located above each kidney that produces various hormones. The medulla (inner part) of the adrenal gland secretes adrenaline (epinephrine). The cortex (outer part) secretes steroids such as cortisol and certain androgens. The adrenal cortex are stimulated to produce hormones by the pituitary hormone ACTH; reduced secretion (adrenal insufficiency) can lead to fatigue, anorexia and weight loss.
adrenaline (epinephrine)
a hormone produced by the cortex of the adrenal gland, particularly during intense emotional states such as fear and rage. Adrenaline increases the heart rate, relaxes bronchial and intestinal smooth muscle, and increases certain metabolic processes. Adrenaline is used to treat acute allergic reactions and asthma.
adrenocorticotrophic hormone (acth)
a hormone produced by the pituitary gland to regulates production of hormones by the adrenal cortex, including cortisol.
brand name of doxorubicin.
adverse experience report
a form used in clinical trials to document life-threatening toxicities. (also abbreviated as AER)
adverse reaction
side-effect; an undesirable or allergic response to a drug. Many of the drugs used to fight HIV Disease cause adverse reactions in a small number of people. Some side effects are minor, and others go away after a few days. A few are truly nasty and require quick medical attention. If you think you are having an adverse reaction to a drug, contact your doctor immediately.
adverse reaction (adverse event, side effect)
a toxic reaction or side effect, e.g., due to treatment with a drug. Adverse reactions may range from mild effects such as rash, headache, nausea or drowsiness, to more severe effects such as peripheral neuropathy, bone marrow suppression, seizures and liver or kidney failure.
requiring or living in the presence of oxygen (e.g., aerobic bacteria).
aerobic exercise
a type of exercise (e.g., running, swimming) that makes the heart and lungs work harder to supply the muscles with more oxygen.

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a fine mist; an aerosolized drug is administered as a fine spray that is inhaled into the lungs.
adj. a liquid dispensed as a fine mist or gas which is inhaled. [from AERO (air) + SOL(ution)].
aerosolized pentamidine (ap, nebupent)
a drug inhaled as a fine mist for prophylaxis against Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP).
without a fever.
affective illness
a condition (e.g., depression, mania) that affects the mood.
refers to nerves that travel from the rest of the body (e.g., skin, muscles, organs) to the brain and spinal cord. Contrast with efferent.
see nelfinavir.
absence of antibodies in the blood.
aggressive treatment
a treatment regimen that employs as many useful therapies as possible, even those that are experimental or involve adverse side effects.
an agent that binds to a receptor on a cell's surface and promotes a specific cellular activity. Agonists often exert their effect by mimicking the activity of the body's natural neurotransmitters and other regulatory chemicals or of other drugs. Also refers to a drug or substance that promotes the activity of another drug. Contrast with antagonist.
a type of white blood cell (e.g., macrophage, lymphocyte) that does not contain granules of toxic chemicals.
abbreviation,  Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. A U.S. government of HIV Disease.
AIDS clinical testing unit
clinical trial sites (commonly abbreviated as ACTU)
AIDS clinical trials group
federal AIDS drug testing organization. (commonly abbreviated as ACTG)
AIDS clinical trials group (actg)
a NIAID-sponsored group of medical centers, known as AIDS Clinical Trials Units (ACTU), that evaluate treatments for HIV disease and associated illnesses. ACTG studies are designated by number (e.g., ACTG 019).
AIDS dementia complex
deterioration of intellectual faculties, often accompanied by emotional disturbance. HIV is active in the brain (central nervous system) and can cause dementia, even in those with high CD4 counts and low viral loads. Treatment usually involves an anti-HIV drug -- such as AZT -- that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. (also called ADC)
AIDS dementia complex (adc, hiv-associated cogniti
mental impairment with an organic cause that is due to HIV infection (i.e., not an opportunistic pathogen). Symptoms may include cognitive impairment (e.g., difficulty concentrating, memory loss), disorientation, mood and personality changes, speech and vision difficulties, psychomotor dysfunction (lack of coordination, incontinence) and paralysis. AIDS-related dementia typically affects people in the later stages of HIV disease. Early stages of the syndrome are referred to as HIV-associated minor cognitive/motor disorder.
AIDS drug assistance program (adap)
a state program that provides drugs for HIV/AIDS and related opportunistic infections to individuals who otherwise could not afford them.
AIDS related complex
a person with HIV who has symptoms but not severe enough to be classified as having AIDS. (commonly abbreviated ARC)
AIDS service organization (aso)
an organization that provides care, education and/or other services to people with HIV/AIDS.
AIDS vaccine evaluation group (aveg)
a NIAID-sponsored network that conducts trials of experimental HIV vaccines at research centers called AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Units (AVEU).
AIDS-defining illness
a condition (e.g., Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, toxoplasmosis, Kaposi's sarcoma) that is included in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's CDC definition of AIDS.
AIDS-related complex (arc)
symptomatic HIV infection. An older term used to describe a condition in which an HIV positive person has a variety of symptoms related to HIV disease (e.g., swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, fever, diarrhea) that do not qualify as AIDS-defining illnesses. The symptoms of ARC are typically less severe than those of full-blown AIDS.
AIDS-related dementia (ard)
see AIDS dementia complex.
see anal intraepithelial neoplasia.
alanine transaminase (alt, sgpt)
see transaminase.
a protein found in bodily tissues and fluids; the principal protein in blood plasma. A reduced level of albumin in the serum of persons with AIDS-related wasting syndrome is a sign of progressive wasting and suggests a high risk of death.
alkaline phosphatase (alk phos)
an enzyme. Doctors sometimes look for alkaline phosphatase to determine the condition of a patient's liver. Low counts are best. A high count suggests hepatitis or a drug toxicitity. (also abbreviated as alk phos)
a complex organic compound derived from plants that contains nitrogen; many alkaloids have pharmacological effects.
a "version" of a specific gene. Each individual has 1 allele at each specific genetic location.
an agent or substance that stimulates an allergic or hypersensitivity reaction.
hypersensitivity to some environmental agent or drug. Most allergic reactions are minor (sneezing, runny nose), but some are life-threatening and require prompt medical attention.
allergy (immediate hypersensitivity)
an immune response to an antigen (allergen) that does not normally cause an adverse reaction (e.g., animal dander, pollen). Allergic reactions are mediated by the release of histamine by mast cells. Allergic symptoms may include runny nose (rhinitis), sneezing, skin rash, asthma or anaphylactic shock.
refers to a graft or transfer (e.g., of tissue) from a genetically non-identical individual. Contrast with syngenic.
a transplant from a genetically non-identical individual, i.e., someone other than an identical twin.
allopathy (adjective allopathic)
"Western medicine." A therapeutic system in which illness or disease is treated by producing a second condition that is antagonistic toward or incompatible with the first (e.g., an antibiotic drug is given to treat infection with a microorganism).
hair loss.
alpha interferon
see interferon
alpha tocopherol
see vitamin E.
alt (sgpt)
alanine transaminase. See transaminase.
alternative therapy
therapy that is not considered standard practice in most Western countries, e.g., Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy.
an odorless, colorless substance used as a topical antibiotic, as an adjuvant in some vaccines and sometimes as placebo.
alveolus (plural alveoli)
The tiny sacs in the lung where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged by red blood cells. Alveoli are the terminations of the bronchial tubes; each sac is about .25 mm in size and there are approximately 1.5 million in each lung.
able to walk and move about without assistance. Ambulatory care typically refers to medical care received on an outpatient basis.
infection with amebas, a type of protozoan, especially Entamoeba histolytica. Amebas invades the bowel mucosa causing ulceration and bloody diarrhea. Transmission is by contaminated water or oral-fecal transfer.
to make better or more tolerable.
absence of menstruation or decreased menstrual flow.
american foundation for aids research (amfar)
a non-profit organization that supports HIV/AIDS prevention and research efforts.
amino acid
one of 20+ organic acids that are the building blocks of proteins.
a family of antibiotic drugs similar to streptomycin.
see transaminase.
a procedure in which a needle is used to withdraw fluid from the amniotic sac that surrounds the fetus in the uterus for diagnosis (e.g., genetic analysis).
amniotic fluid
the fluid contained within the amnion, or innermost membrane of the uterus, that envelopes the fetus during pregnancy.
a psychostimulant drug that acts on the central nervous system.
amphotericin b
an antibiotic drug used to treat disseminated fungal infections (e.g., cryptococcal meningitis). The drug can have severe side effects including fever, chills, nausea, kidney toxicity and bone marrow suppression. Toxicity may be reduced by administering the drug in a liposomal (fat bubble) form.
amplicor hiv-1 monitor
see reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test.
amplification assay
a type of test (e.g., polymerase chain reaction, branched-chain DNA) that detects small fragments of DNA or RNA and amplifies the fragments (target amplification) or the chemical signals they produce (signal amplification). Such assays are used to detect microorganisms in blood and tissues.
a small, sealed glass container used to hold a solution for injection.
amsler grid
a diagram of squares used to assess vision. Defects in the central visual field (e.g., due to CMV retinitis) may be detected as breaks or unevenness in the lines of the grid.
amyl nitrite
see nitrite inhalant.
an enzyme that converts starch to sugar. High levels in a lab test indicate pancreatitis is a possibility.
anabolic steroid
a synthetic hormone used to increase muscle size and strength.
the cellular synthesis of organic molecules; the building of proteins and muscle mass in the body. See also metabolism.
living in the absence of oxygen (e.g., anaerobic bacteria).
anal intraepithelial neoplasia (ain)
the abnormal growth of cells of the anus, which may be a precursor of anal cancer.
a drug that reduces pain.
variant of analogue.
a structural derivative.
anamnestic response
a heightened immunologic response stimulated by a second or subsequent exposure to a specific antigen.
anaphylactic shock (anaphylaxis)
a life-threatening allergic reaction to a foreign antigen mediated by IgE antibodies. Symptoms include swelling, shortness of breath and a decrease in blood pressure due to capillary dilation.
anatomy (adjective anatomic)
the study of the structure of the body.
a hormone (e.g., testosterone, androsterone) that has masculinizing effects, including stimulation of the male reproductive organs and development of secondary sex characteristics. Androgens are produced by the testes and/or the adrenal glands.
refers to evidence based on reports of specific individual cases rather than controlled, clinical studies.
a deficiency in oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. Determining lab tests include hemoglobin, red blood cell volume, and red blood cell number.
anergy (adjective anergic)
the lack of an immune response to a foreign antigen. Anergy may indicate an inability to mount a normal allergic or immune reaction, and may be a sign of immunocompromise.
the growth and proliferation of blood vessels.
an agent that inhibits the growth of new blood vessels.
angular cheilitis
see cheilitis.
animal model
a disease in an animal that resembles a similar disease in humans. Animal models are used to test new drugs and therapies.
refers to area that includes the genitals, perineum and anus.
loss of appetite, especially as a result of disease.
examination of the anal canal and lower rectum using a short speculum.
analysis of variance; a statistical technique that analyzes the contribution to an experimental result made by independent variables.
a drug that counteracts or neutralizes another drug.
the period of time before birth.
a drug that helps to normalize the rhythm of the heartbeat.
effective against bacteria, a substance that kills bacteria or halts bacterial replication.
an agent that inhibits the growth of or destroys microorganisms; the term typically refers to an agent that is active against bacteria.
protein in the blood that are generated in reaction to foreign proteins. antibodies selectively neutralize the foreign proteins, producing immunity to certain microorganisms or their toxins. Tests to determine if you are HIV positive look for HIV antibodies -- evidence that your body is attempting to fight the virus.
antibody (ab, immunoglobulin, ig)
an immunoglobulin protein secreted by activated plasma cells, which evolve from B-cells. Antibodies are present throughout the blood and tissues; they are produced in response to stimulation by foreign antigens as part of the body's defense against disease. Specific antibodies bind to and act upon specific antigens; the antigen/antibody reaction forms the basis of humoral (TH2) immunity. Neutralizing antibodies destroy or inactivate infectious agents, while enhancing antibodies promote infection. There are 5 classes of immunoglobulins: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG and IgM. See also immunoglobulin A-M.
antibody positive
having antibodies (e.g., against HIV) in the blood, indicating previous exposure to an organism. Typically the terms seropositive and HIV positive are used to mean antibody positive. Contrast with antigen positive.
antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (adc
an immune response in which antibodies bind to target cells and identify them for attack by natural killer cells and macrophages.
antibody-mediated immunity
see humoral immunity.
a substance that suppresses blood clotting.
an agent that prevents or lessens convulsions or seizures; may be used as an adjuvant analgesic.
an agent that elevates the mood and prevents or alleviates psychological depression. Antidepressant drugs are sometimes used as adjuvant analgesic to relieve neuropathic pain. Heterocyclic and tricyclic classifications refer to antidepressants with specific chemical structures. Other classes of antidepressants include MAO inhibitors and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (e.g., Prozac).
an agent that relieves nausea and vomiting.
a substance which kills fungus.
a substance that -- when introduced into the body -- stimulates production of an antibody.
antigen (adjective antigenic)
any agent or substance that stimulates an immune response. Antigens are often foreign microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses, or the substances they produce.
antigen positive
having proteins from a microorganism (e.g., HIV RNA) in the blood or tissues, as determined by tests such as the PCR assay. Contrast with antibody positive.
the presence of antigens in the blood.
antigen-presenting cell (apc)
a cell (e.g., macrophage) that processes antigen proteins and displays the short peptide fragments on its surface in conjunction with major histocompatibility (MHC) proteins, enabling recognition by T-cells.
an agent that counteracts the effects of histamine; antihistamines are used to treat allergic reactions and to block stomach acid production.
adj. acting against inflammation
an agent that destroys or prevents the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi or parasites.
an agent that is active against mycobacteria (e.g., M. avium, M. tuberculosis).
an agent that inhibits or prevents the proliferation of cancer cells and the growth of tumors.
a substance that inhibits oxidation. In your blood stream, free radicals damage cells by oxidizing them. Beta-carotine, vitamin C, and vitamin E are considered antioxidents.
a substance that kills or suppresses a retrovirus, such as HIV. All of the anti-HIV drugs --AZT, protease inhibitors, etc. -- are considered antiretroviral drugs.
the opposite (miror image) of a genetic sequence, used to inactivate a genetic sequence.
an antibody that recognizes and neutralizes a toxin (e.g., insect venom, bacterial toxins).
a substance that kills or suppresses a virus.
antiviral drug advisory committee
a group of medical experts and advocates who make recommendations to the FDA regarding the approval of antiviral drugs.
an agent (e.g., diazepam) that reduces the symptoms of anxiety.
see aerosolized pentamidine.
loss of the ability to speak or understand language.
the removal of a specific component of the blood for therapeutic purposes (e.g., plasmapheresis, or removal of plasma). Blood is removed, desired components are filtered out, and the remainder of the blood is returned to the body.
aphthous ulcer (canker sore)
a small often painful shallow lesion on the mucous membranes lining the mouth, esophagus or rectum. Recurrent aphthous ulcers (RAU) reappear frequently and are refractory to treatment.
programmed cell death. Apoptosis is the body's mechanism for eliminating undesirable or excessive immune system activity, e.g., immune cells that attack the body's own tissues. Abnormal apoptosis is often seen in HIV disease.
arachidonic acid
an essential fatty acid that is a building block of prostaglandins and a component of cell membranes.
abbreviation,  AIDS Related Complex. a person with HIV who has symptoms but not severe enough to be classified as having AIDS.
a group of participants in a research trial who receive the same treatment (treatment arm) or placebo (control arm).
loss of normal rhythm, especially irregularities of the heartbeat.
pain in a joint.
arthritis (plural arthritides)
inflammation of a joint; rheumatism.
an "accidental" result or outcome that does to reflect reality, often due to an extraneous factor.
ascorbic acid (ascorbate)
see vitamin C.
see AIDS service organization.
aspartate transaminase (ast, sgot)
see transaminase.
a fungal mass that grows in a cavity in the lungs.
A disease caused by a fungus. It can cause lesions of the skin, ear, orbit, nasal sinuses, lungs and sometimes the bones, meninges, heart, kidneys or spleen. Symptoms include fever, chills, difficulty breathing, and coughing up blood. If the infection reaches the brain, it may cause dementia.
withdrawal of fluid or tissue by suction, typically through a needle (e.g., to obtain a sample for analysis).
qualitative (condition) or quantitative (amount) analysis of a substance; a test.
ast (sgot)
aspartate transaminase. See transaminase.
a cell within the brain that provides support for neurons and manufactures the myelin insulation that surrounds neuronal axons.
proliferation of astrocytes within the brain.
without symptoms. e.g., someone who is infected by HIV but has no symptoms.
loss or lack of muscle coordination.
a non-nucleoside reverse-transcriptase antiretroviral drug.
"hardening of the arteries" in which cholesterol and other deposits build up on the inner walls of the artery, limiting the flow of blood.
lacking a thymus gland.
the smallest division of an element that can exist independently. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons, and are the component parts of molecules.
atovaquone (mepron, formerly 566c80)
an antimicrobial drug used as a treatment for PCP for individuals who cannot tolerate or fail on TMP-SMX and for pregnant women.
emaciation, loss of tissue.
atrophy (adjective atrophic)
progressive degeneration, wasting or decrease in size, especially the loss of muscle tissue.
to weaken or reduce the level of virulence. An attenuated virus has a diminished ability to cause disease, and may be used in vaccines.
adj. weakened, made less virulent. An attenuated virus is a virus that is still alive but incapable of causing harm.
a condition of being abnormal or not typical.
an antibody thought to act against cells of the organism in which it is formed.
a cellular messenger that acts at or near the site where it is produced.
related to or caused by autoantibodies. A disease where the body's cells attacks themselves.
autoimmune response (autoimmunity)
a condition (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus) in which an individual's immune system fails to recognize its own biochemical markers as being "self" and attacks bodily tissues as if they were foreign matter.
spread of infection by an individual from one part of their body to another, usually by means of the hands.
derived from the same individual. An autologous transfusion or transplant is one in which a person's own blood or tissues are removed and reintroduced at a later time.
autonomic nervous system (ans)
the branch of the nervous system that primarily controls non-voluntary bodily processes such as heartbeat, intestinal motility and non-endocrine gland secretion. The ANS has two branches, sympathetic and parasympathetic.
autopsy (post mortem)
a physical examination and/or dissection of a body following death.
see AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group.
lack of virus in the blood plasma.
the long structure of a nerve cell that acts as a pathway for nerve impulses.
a system of traditional medicine practiced in India.
see AZT.
azithromycin (zithromax)
a macrolide antibiotic used to treat Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) disease, chlamydiasis and urinary tract infections.
azole drug
a class of drugs used to fight fungal infections. There are 2 subclasses, the imidazoles (e.g., clotrimazole, ketoconazole) and the triazoles (e.g., fluconazole, itraconazole).
azt (zidovudine [zdv], azidothymidine, retrovir)
a nucleoside (thymidine) analog drug that suppresses the replication of HIV by terminating DNA synthesis. AZT is FDA-approved for the treatment of HIV infection; current practice favors the use of AZT in combination with other antiretroviral drugs. AZT crosses the blood-brain barrier and may be effective against AIDS dementia complex. Adverse side effects include nausea, myopathy and bone marrow suppression.
a controlled-release formulation of AZT.
In Association with