About Us
Latest SA News
News Archives
Search Archives
Key Documents
Contacts Database
Events Calendar
Contact Us














The HIV and AIDS Glossary

The Journ-AIDS HIV and AIDS Glossary contains definitions and explanations of key terms used in connection with HIV/AIDS. For ease of search, select the starting letter of each word that you are searching for




Media Sites

Abstinence Abstinence means avoiding sex. The definition of sex varies and for some is defined as penis-in-vagina intercourse. Others may include oral sex, anal sex, or even kissing and touching. The way in which sex is defined determines which activities to avoid.
Acquired Not inherited in the gene’s from one’s parents, but from the environment.
Adolescence A period of intense emotional and intellectual development between childhood and adulthood, when boys and girls go through the physical changes also known as puberty.
AIDS The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is clinically defined by a CD4 count of less than 200. The CD4 cell count is a laboratory marker of the strength of a persons immune system. It is not a specific illness but rather a collection of illnesses that affect the body as a result of a weakened immune system.
Anal Sex Penetration of the anus by the penis. Men practice anal intercourse with women and with other men. HIV is twice as likely to be transmitted in unprotected anal intercourse as in vaginal intercourse.
Antenatal HIV Clinic Survey (ANC) Monitoring and surveillance of the epidemic is primarily through the Antenatal Clinic Survey which involves a series of annual unlinked, anonymous HIV surveys among women attending antenatal clinics of the Public Health Services. The survey uses pregnant women to gain estimates of HIV prevalence and to track trends of HIV infections over time. The ANCs have limitations in estimating national prevalence as they are limited to currently or sexually active pregnant women of a limited age group (15-49).
Antibody Special proteins produced by certain white blood cells to fight against specific organisms such as a particular virus or bacterium or other disease agent or substance.
Antibody Positive With regard to HIV this means someone’s blood contains antibodies to HIV. Although the person may have no signs of disease, they can infect others through sex or blood, and they are likely to develop AIDS at some stage. See also HIV positive.
Antigen Any substance which, when introduced into the body, causes a specific antibody to be produced. The antibodies neutralize or block the antigens, so providing protection against micro-organisms that have specific antigens. The term antigen comes from antibody generator.
Antigen test Or direct antigen test, tests for the virus itself, not antibodies. These are expensive and complex and generally not available in many countries. See also viral load test.
Anti (retro) viral (ARV) Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) are not a cure for HIV/AIDS but do prolong the lives of those infected with HIV. These inhibit the replication of the reverse transcriptase and protease, which are two enzymes that are essential for HIV replication. In resource poor settings the onset of ARV treatment is usually medically recommended once the CD4 cell count of the person living with HIV/AIDS is 200 or below. To be effective a combination of three or more ARVs are taken, this is commonly referred to as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). These include nucleoside analogues, reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI), non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI), and protease inhibitors (PI). See also combination therapy, non – nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors nucleoside analogues and protease inhibitors.
ASO AIDS Service Organisation: usually a community - based and non-governmental organization which undertakes one or more of the following tasks: educating the public about HIV transmission and means of protecting oneself; providing pre – and post – test counseling; and care of individuals who have contracted HIV or developed AIDS.
Asymptomatic Refers to the period when there is an absence of clinical symptoms of HIV infection, such as fevers, weight loss and oral thrush or opportunistic infections. The asymptomatic phase varies in length from individual to individual and among some last 10 years or longer.
Bacteremia The presence of bacteria in the blood
Bilateral Donor This is direct assistance from one country to another country. Bilateral Agencies include: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Kingdoms Department for International Development (DFID)
Blood Products Part of the blood, e.g. red blood cells, platelets, plasma or clotting factors that can be separated from whole blood to meet specific needs.
Blood Screening The process of testing of blood to see if it contains infectious agents capable of being transmitted to those who receive the blood.

See thrush
Casual sex The definition varies from sex with an unknown person we don't know to any sexual activity with a non-regular partner. In epidemiological terms it is where an individual has more than one sexual partner in a 12 – month period.
CD4 cells CD4 cells, also known as helper T-cells, are a type of lymphocyte, which is a white blood cell that plays an important role in the immune system. Lymphocytes control the body's ability to recognize and fight infections and cancers. CD4 lymphocytes help to identify, attack, and destroy specific bacteria, fungi, and other germs that infect the body. In addition, they regulate the production of antibodies (proteins that fight infections) and cytokines (chemicals that regulate other immune functions). CD4 cells are produced in the spleen, lymph nodes, and thymus gland, and they circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream. HIV binds to the surface of CD4 cells, enters them, and either reproduces immediately, killing them in the process, or remains in a resting state, reproducing when the cell becomes active.
CD4 Cell Count Is the amount of CD4 or T-helper cells in the blood. The CD4 test measures the number of CD4 cells in a blood sample. Normal CD4 counts in adults range from 500 to 1200 cells per cubic millimeter (mm3) of volume. The CD4 cell count is a laboratory marker of the strength of your immune system. It helps to determine how advanced your HIV disease is (staging) and to predict your risk of complications (prognosis).
See female genital mutilation
Circumcision, Male The operation that removes the foreskin from the penis. Studies suggest that circumcised men are less likely to contract and transmit HIV than men who are uncircumcised. Some people believe that male circumcision, though it has fewer harmful consequences than female circumcision, should also be described as genital mutilation.
Clinical trial Is a research study used to assess the benefits and risks of a new vaccine or treatment.Human testing consists of 3 phases. Phase I Trial. Measures mainly the safety, and side effects as well as early immune response (immunogenicity) of various doses of the test vaccine in a small number (usually 60 or less) of HIV-negative, low-risk, adult volunteers. It usually lasts for 12-18 months. Phase II Trial. These are controlled trials that collect data on the safety, side effects and efficacy (it’s ability to prevent infection) of the vaccine as well as dosage and routes of administration. This phase usually involves between 200 and 500 HIV negative, adult, volunteers and can last up to 2 years. Phase III Trial. This is a larger controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine as well as the optimal dosage and schedule of the vaccine. It involves thousands of HIV-negative, usually high-risk volunteers and usually lasts for 3 to 4 years.All three phases usually use placebo and control groups for comparison.
Co-factors Secondary conditions that cause something to occur; e.g. HIV is spread more easily if there is an STI, so STI is a cofactor of HIV transmission.
Combination therapy Three-drug combinations of anti-HIV drugs are more effective than one or two ARV drug combinations in preventing disease progression and death. Triple combination therapy greatly reduces disease progression and deaths in people living with AIDS. The name now commonly given to combinations of anti-HIV drugs is HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy). Thus a person taking ARV will take one
Compulsory Liscensing Allows a patent holder to be forced to allow others to produce its product. Compulsory licensing is sanctioned by the World Trade Organisation under certain conditions such as patent abuse or in cases of national emergency. means to provisions in the won the court action against the pharmaceutical industry allowing the government to issue compulsory licenses to local companies to produce and import generics.
Condom, female The female condom is a polyurethane sheath that lines the vagina creating a barrier against the exchange of body fluids. It comprises of an inner and outer ring. The inner ring at the closed end is used for insertion and helps to maintain the device at upper end of the vagina. The larger outer ring remains outside the vagina and anchors the condom so that the sheath covers the external genitalia as well as the base of the penis during intercourse.The female condom is intended to serve a dual role, offering protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is estimated to be 95% effective when used consistently and correctly.
Confirmatory Tests Initial positive results from an HIV antibody test cannot be regarded as conclusive and should be followed up with confirmatory tests such as the Western blot and Line immunoassays which determine whether an initial positive result correctly indicates an HIV infection.
Condom, male A sheath unrolled over an erect penis. Male condoms are made from latex or polyurethane to prevent conception and transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Conjugate vaccines The organisms that cause some diseases like pneumococcal pneumonia have special outer coats that disguises it so that an immature immune system, like that of an infant, cannot recognise them. Conjugate vaccines use special proteins that the immature immune system can recognize and attach them to the organism. These vaccines are used to prevent meningitis.
Contraception Any method that prevents a woman from conceiving a child, such as the pill and diaphragm. Of all contraceptive methods, only the male and female condoms offer dual protection from infection with HIV and other STI’s.
Cost of treatment The direct cost of treatment of HIV/ AIDS includes: doctor’s fees, test fees (for the HIV antibody test, X –rays, CD 4 cell count and viral load tests etc), hospital fees, fees for drugs and other forms of treatment and fees for home and hospice care. See also indirect costs.
Counselling Is the provision of information and advice. Pre–test counseling helps the individual to decide whether to take the HIV antibody test. Post–test counseling provides an opportunity for those who test HIV – negative to learn how to protect themselves from future infection, and advises those who test HIV – positive how to maintain their health and how to avoid transmitting the virus to others.
Criminal Law A phrase that often includes the entirety of what we know as the adiministration of criminal justice, can encompass several legal fields: substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, law enforcement, and penology.
Cryptococcal Meningits A form of inflammation of the brain membrane caused by a fungus common with AIDS.
Cytomegalvirus A virus linked to herpes that may cause blindness in people with AIDS.
Dementia (AIDS Dementia) loss of control of thought, emotion, personality and behaviour through progressive brain damage cause by HIV, similar to senile dementia.
Diagnosis Interpretations of a disease. HIV infection cannot be diagnosed and is only confirmed by an HIV antibody test. Diagnosis of AIDS may be made when a patient contracts an opportunistic infection; where possible, the diagnosis of AIDS should be confirmed, or eliminated, by an HIV antibody test.
Discordant In relation to HIV, two test results on one person where one gives an HIV-positive result and the other an HIV-negative result. Discordant couple refers to where one partner may is HIV negative and the other HIV positive.
DNA Deoxyribonucleic acid. The genetically material of most living organisms. See also RNA.
Drugs, antiretroviral See Antiretroviral.
Drugs, injecting

The term usually refers to the injection of drugs for recreational purposes – either drugs produced only for recreational use, such as heroin, or medicinal drugs injected in combinations or doses intended for recreational use. Non – sterilized injecting equipment carries a high risk of transmission of HIV and other diseases such as Hepatitis.

Drugs, recreational In addition to those which are injected, recreational drugs may be inhaled (eg cocaine, marijuana, tobacco) injected (e.g. heroin), eaten, chewed or swallowed (e.g. qat, coca leaf and “ecstasy”) or drunk (e.g. caffeine, alcohol) to alter physical sensations and mental attitudes. Medicinal drugs may also be misused as recreational drugs. Recreational drugs such as alcohol are likely to make people less likely to protect themselves during sexual intercourse carry an indirect risk of HIV transmission.
Dry sex In some cultures, women use substances to reduce or prevent flow of vaginal fluids during intercourse because their male partners prefer the sensation of “dry sex”. Dry sex heightens the risk of HIV transmission as it increases the likelihood of bleeding especially if a condom is not used.
ELISA Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Elisa Tests): Is an HIV antibody test which until the introduction of the rapid test was the most commonly used type of test for screening. ELISA tests are more expensive than the rapid tests requiring skilled technical staff, equipment maintenance, and a steady power supply.
Encephalitis Brain inflammation common with AIDS. It may occur during the serio conversion phase.
Endemic Normally occurring and widespread at a stable level.
Epidemic An unusual marked increase in cases in a fairly short period of time.
Epidemiology The study of the prevalence and spread of infection and disease (and injury) in populations.
Faithful / Fidelity Faithfulness to one’s sexual partner and abstaining from casual sex. Fidelity only protects an individual from HIV when it is mutual – i.e. when both partners are faithful to each other. Also referred to as monogamy.
Female genital mutilation Also known as female circumcision. The partial or full removal of the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora.
Gender Gender describes the socially constructed differences between men and women and the cultural roles, which they are expected to fulfill. While sex describes the physical status - whether an individual has a penis and testicles or breasts and vagina
Generics Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs where the patent has expired or are being made under compulsory license.
Gross Domestic Product GDP is the Basic measure of national economic well-being, including the total expenditure by national residents, or goods or services for consumption, investment and government services (over a period of a year); GDP often under-estimates informal sector spending.
Haemophilia An inherited blood disorder affecting males, in which the blood lacks clotting factor. It can be controlled by injecting a clotting agent taken from pooled donated blood.
Hepatitis B Serious and widespread viral infection of the liver causing jaundice, transmitted much more easily than HIV through blood and sexual fluids. It is carried by about 10% of adults in Africa.
Heterosexual See sexual orientation
HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): HIV is a retrovirus which enters CD4 blood cells, where it converts its RNA into DNA by using an enzyme known as reverse transcriptase. This allows the virus to replicate itself. It also weakens the body’s immune system and eventually leads to the development of AIDS.
HIV antibodies When confronted with infection, the immune system produces antibodies, which circulate in the blood to attack the pathogen. With many diseases, the antibodies overcome the pathogen; in the case of HIV, antibodies are produced but they do not succeed in preventing the virus from replicating.
HIV antibody tests A test to confirm whether an individual has HIV antibodies – and therefore whether they have contracted the virus. A positive result suggests they have contracted HIV. Where possible, a second test is generally used to confirm the initial positive result, this is known as a confirmatory test. See also Rapid tests, Elisa tests, Confirmatory tests.
HIV negative Having no antibodies to HIV, this usually means no HIV is present but see false negative and window period. Can only be determined through an HIV antibody test.
HIV positive Having antibodies to HIV is the blood and therefore having HIV infection. See false positive. Babies can be HIV positive because of the presence of maternal antibodies even if the baby has no HIV infection.
Homosexual See sexual orientation.
Human Rights Are the rights and freedoms of all human beings. They are fundamental and universal consisting of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Inactivated vaccines Are produced by killing the disease-causing micro-organism with heat or chemicals, thus making it stable. These types of vaccines produce a relatively weak immune response and must be given more than once. e.g. cholera and flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is given every year also because the flu virus has many different strains. (See Vaccines)
Immune System The immune system comprises the body’s defence mechanisms that protects from disease. These include complex cellular responses in the lymph and blood. It includes the skin, mucus membranes, special glands and secretions. HIV primarily affects cell mediated immunity.
IDU Injecting Drug User formerly referred to as intravenous drug user. Intravenous means into the veins. The term IDU is no longer used because many individuals who inject drugs inject into a muscle, not into a vein. Instead today reference is made to injecting drug users.
Incidence New cases of infection in a population within a fixed period (usually a year).Incidence is always expressed as a number.
Incubation period The period between infection with a virus or pathogen and the appearance of symptoms, HIV is unusual in that the incubation period may vary from months to years.
Indirect costs The indirect costs of a disease generally include loss of income from the patient and from those who take off work to care for the patient, attend their funeral and look after their dependents. Social costs, which may lead to additional economic loss, include such items as loss of schooling by those who care for relatives with the disease and poorer nutrition resulting from lack of income or labour to gather food and prepare meals.
Infected Although this is the word most commonly used to describe an individual who has contracted the HI virus, many organizations representing people living with HIV/AIDS prefer to avoid the term and use “living with HIV” instead.
Infectious Capable of infecting others. HIV is primarily transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, child birth or contaminated blood products.
Informed consent An HIV antibody test should only be undertaken as the result of informed consent obtained during pre-test counseling – when the individual fully understands the implications of the test and the possible impact of the result on their lives.
Injecting equipment Usually a manufactured syringe, but the term may refer to any instrument, such as one made from a ballpoint pen, used to inject drugs. Failure to thoroughly sterilize injecting equipment between each use can lead to transmission of HIV and other diseases.
Kaposi’s sarcoma Normally rare type of cancer which starts as pink or dark, flat or raised marks on the skin which gradually spread; internal organs may later become infected; it is quite a common opportunistic infection associated with HIV/AIDS and also occurs unrelated to AIDS in a mild form in some elderly people.
Leverate Custom of inheritance of a widow by the late husbands brother.
Live-attenuated vaccines Are grown in a lab to make the disease-causing agent lose its virulence (the disease-causing ability of a micro-organism). This type of vaccine needs special handling and storage in order to maintain its potency, but it only needs to be administered once. However, there is a possibility that the live organism may mutate and thus become virulent again. Examples of live-attenuated vaccines are yellow fever, measles and rubella vaccines.
Lymphadenopathy Swollen lymph nodes or glands, felt as lumps in the neck, armpit, groin and elsewhere. Persistent generalized lymphadenopathy (PGL) is when the lymph glands around the body are swollen over a long period of time (at least three months); this is often a sign of HIV infection, but other longlasting infections can also cause PGL, and many people with HIV do not have swollen glands.
Lymph Nodes/Glands A system of glands found throughout the body which act as filters for harmful substances and so help fight infection; HIV particularly collects in the lymph nodes.
Lymphoma General Term for tumours in lymphoid tissues.
Lymphocytes White blood cells that fight infections.
Macrophages Cells in the immune system that engulf invading organisms.
Marker Disease Disease commonly associated with a particular infection, for instance Kaposi’s sarcoma is a marker disease for HIV/AIDS.
Masturbation Using one’s hand for sexual pleasure, generally to achieve orgasm (sexual climax). Masturbation can be practiced alone or on a partner. The chances of transmission of HIV as a result of masturbation is very minimal.
Meningitis Inflamation of the meninges, the membranes covering the brain, cryptococcal meningitis is common in AIDS.
Microbicide A chemical contained in gel, foam, pessary or film that kills microbes such as bacteria and viruses. At present research is being conducted on Microbicides that will act against HIV.
Monotherapy The administering of one type of drug. Monotherapy in HIV is generally not recommended because it can lead to drug resistance and a faster deterioration of the patient’s state of health.
Morbidity The incidence of a disease.
Mortality Rate
transmission (Prevention of)
Transmission of HIV from a mother living with HIV to her unborn child occurs in three main stages: While the mother is pregnant, at the time of birth, or through breastfeeding. Transmission occurs in 25% to 40 % of cases without prophylactic treatment. Two forms of regimens are available to prevent mother to child transmission. In South Africa the most widely used regimen is the provision of Nevirapine also known as NVP or Viramune, which is a tablet taken by the women in labour and also administered to the baby between 24-72 hours after birth. If the mother takes Zidovudine (AZT) during the pregnancy and refrains from breastfeeding, transmission rates fall to 10%. Other drugs are being developed to prevent mother – to – child transmission - which is also known as perinatal transmission. An effective PMTCT programme comprises the provision of informed voluntary counseling and testing, the provision of the drug and counseling the women concerning feeding options.
Multilateral Donor Include organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union. Multilateral agencies receive their funding through pledges made by their member states.
NA(C) P The recognition of HIV/AIDS as a developmental issue has resulted in many countries establishing National AIDS Councils (NACs) which oversees the national response to HIV / AIDS in each country. The National AIDS Council in most instances is chaired by the President or Deputy President of a country and comprises relevant government departments/ministeries, bilateral and multilateral donors, non – governmental and other organizations, eg. the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).
Neonatal Refers to the first four weeks of life
Neuropathy Pain in the nerves due to infection, disease, drugs or injury. Peripheral neuropathy, pain in the hands and feet is common with vitamin deficiency and AIDS.
Nevirapine Also known by its brand name Viramune, or nickname NVP, Nevirapine is a non-nucleoside reverse transciptase inhibitor which used in combination with other drugs may reduce the viral load and increase the CD4 cell count thereby prolonging the life of person living with HIV/AIDS. NVP is also used to prevent the transmission of mother-to-child and is a tablet taken by the women in labour and administered to the baby between 24-72 hours after birth. Studies in Uganda and South Africa have also found that NVP is safe and effective.
Non-governmental Non- governmental organizations (NGOs) vary in size, budget and scope from unpaid volunteers in a small district to large international institutions. Most NGO’s are non- profit organizations.
Non- nucleoside reverse
Transcriptase inhibitors
A class of antiretroviral drug. Non- nucleoside reverse transciptase inhibitors that slows the reproduction of HIV by interfering with reverse transcriptase, an important viral enzyme. This enzyme is essential for HIV to incorporate its genetic material into cells. NNRTI drugs include: Nevirapine, delavirdine (Rescripta), efavirenza (Sustiva).
Non – penetrative sex Sexual activity, which does not involve penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth. Non – penetrative sex does not allow transmission of HIV unless infected semen or vaginal fluid from one partner come into contact with a cut or lesion on the other partner’s body.
Notifiable A legal requirement
Nucleoside analogues Nucleoside Analogue Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTI’s), target the HIV protein reverse transcriptase preventing the translation of viral RNA into viral DNA (e.g. AZT, ddl, ddC & 3TC).
Opportunistic infection Are infections that attack the body when the immune system is weakened. People with HIV are prone to contracting many infections as the immune system weakens. While serious many can be prevented. The most Commonest opportunistic infections are: Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) causing tuberculosis; pneumonia (PCP); herpes virus; diarrhea; toxoplasmosis.
Oral(Sex) intercourse Oral sex for women is called cunnilingus. Cunnilingus stimulates the women with the tongue into her vagina. Oral sex for men is called fellatio. This is when men have their penis sucked, licked and kissed. Is Practiced by women with men and men with other men. There is some risk involved in having unprotected oral sex with a man or a woman. To avoid risks during oral sex it is important to keep semen and vaginal fluids out of your mouth, Ensure that your mouth is healthy and that you don't have bleeding gums, cuts, or mouth sores.
Palliative Treatment Is defined by WHO as the active, total care of a patient whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment. The focus is upon quality of life rather than on cure or recovery. In the context of HIV/AIDS palliative care can commence long before the final stages of AIDS.
Pandemic A global or very widespread epidemic.
Parasite A living organism that survives by invading the body or another organism; e.g. parasitic worms, bilharzia.
Parrallel Importing Means a brand name drug already sold iin South Africa is simultaneously imported from another country where it is sold cheaper. Parallel imported drgs are theoretically the same as the brand product and may even come from the same plant.
Pathogen Any disease- causing micro- organism. Pathogen include viruses many bacteria, fungi and protozoan.
Pneumocstis carinii
Pneumonia (PCP)
A type of pneumonia only seen in people with weakened immunity such as AIDS.
Pneumonia Serious lung infections causing coughing and breathing difficulties. Pneumonia can arise if other infections are not properly treated.
Placebo Is a harmless, non-active substance that is designed to look like the test product.)
Post – test counseling See counseling
Post Exposure
Prophylaxis (PEP)
Is a program of several antiviral drugs, that are taken several times each day, for at least 30 days, to prevent that a person becomes infected with HIV following exposure either through sexual assault or occupational exposure. Following potential exposure to HIV, PEP treatment needs to be commenced at least within 72 hours. Prior to the onset of use of PEP an HIV test should be taken to determine the status of the person concerned. Information and counselling should be given so as to enable the person to understand the drugs, the necessity of complying, the need to practice safer sex and follow-up HIV tests.
Population Based
Population based surveys are conducted among the population on a national scale and have sample sizes large enough to be able to draw conclusions about the population as a whole. The major national surveys often have a large enough sample so that the data can be broken down by province or territory or region or population sub-group. Estimating HIV prevalence is done through saliva based testing.
Prenatal transmission See mother – to- child – transmission
Pre – test counseling See counseling
Prevalence Is the estimated percentage of the adult population living with HIV at a specific time, regardless of when infection occurred. Prevalence is always expressed as a percentage.
Prevention Programs Projects or campaigns designed to increase awareness of HIV and the means of preventing transmission. Prevention programs are targeted at the general public or at defined audience such as: young people, sex workers and their clients, migrant labourers etc.
Prophylactic A prophylactic prevents the spread of a disease. Prophylaxis is sometimes also used to mean contraception.
Prostitution See sex worker
Protease inhibitors Protease inhibitors are a type of antiretroviral that stops the reproduction of HIV. Protease inhibitors block a part of HIV called the protease enzyme. With the protease enzyme blocked, HIV makes copies of virus that are defective and can't infect new cells. Studies have shown that taken in combination with at least two other antiretroviral drugs these drugs, can lower viral load (the amount of HIV in your blood) and raise T-cell (CD4 cell) counts. Protease Inhibitors include: Indinavir (Crixivan), Saquinavir (Invirase), Ritonavir (Norvir), Neflinavir (Viracept), Lopinavir and Ritonavir (Kaletra)
Protected Sex Sex that prevents any semen, vaginal fluids or blood from entering your bloodstream. Condoms are the most effective way of preventing HIV transmission. Other preventative measures include: abstinence, faithfulness to one partner whose HIV status is known to you.
Puberty Puberty refers to the physical, including sexual, changes that occur when a child reaches adulthood. See also adolescence.
PWA/PLWA/PLWHA Person living with HIV/AIDS, whether or not they have symptoms of AIDS.
Rapid Tests Takes less than 10 minutes to provide a result. These tests have an internal sample addition control that validates each test run. In most instances a positive result is indicated by the appearance of a clearly visible dot or line. A positive result is confirmed through a confirmatory test.
Recombinant subunit
Are produced by taking a part of the disease-causing microbe rather than the whole to create a synthetic antigen that will be able to produce an immune response. Most HIV candidate vaccines to date have been subunit vaccines.
Recombinant vector
Are produced by using a virus or bacteria (not HIV) as a vector (carrier) for HIV genetic material. These carriers deliver the modified microbe to the part of the body that will produce the desired immune response.
Retrovirus The virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a retrovirus. It is called HIV for human immunodeficiency virus. Retroviruses are infectious particles consisting of an RNA genome packaged in a protein capsid, surrounded by a lipid envelope. Retroviruses contain RNA as the hereditary material in place of the more common DNA. In addition to RNA, retrovirus particles also contain the enzyme reverse transcriptase (or RNAse), which causes synthesis of a complementary DNA molecule (cDNA) using virus RNA as a template.
Risk Risk of HIV transmission can occur in any situation which provides for the virus to be transmitted - e.g. in an act of unprotected intercourse or when unscreened blood is transfused.
RNA Ribonucleic acid, an organic compound storing genetic information.
Safer Sex Limited sexual activity in which no semen or vaginal fluid enters another persons body, or full sexual intercourse with a condom and ideally a microbicide; any sexual activity between non-infected persons is safe.
Screening The process of testing donated blood to see if it contains infectious agents capable of being transmitted to those who receive the blood is known as screening.
Semen / Seminal fluid The penis ejaculates semen which contains sperm, the male contribution to conception. Infected semen is the primary route through which men transmit HIV to their sexual partners.
Sentinal Surveillance Screening of a key group in the population to gain an indea of the extent of infection or other problem. E.g. screening of pregnant women or STI patients for HIV to find out HIV prevalence; repeat screening at regular intervals indicates trends in HIV transmission in this population group over time.
Seroconversion Primary HIV infection occurs when HIV first enters the body. The virus replicates rapidly and reaches peak levels generally associated with seroconversion characterized by the development of flu like symptoms. It is estimated that 95 - 99% of individuals infected with HIV will seroconvert within 6-12 weeks. HIV can be transmitted during this phase and there is evidence that the risk of transmission is higher because the number of viral particles in blood and body fluids is so high.
Seronegative Without a specified pathogen in the blood. In the context HIV / AIDS, seronegative is the same as HIV-negative. This can only be determined through an HIV antibody test which does not fnd the presence of HIV/AIDS antibodies within the blood stream.
Seropositive With a specified pathogen in the blood. In the context of HIV/AIDS, seropositive is the same as HIV positive. This is determined through a HIV/AIDS antibody test that detects the presence of HIV/AIDS antibodies in the blood stream.
Serostatus Literally “state of the blood”. In the context of HIV, the term indicates whether a person has contracted the virus or not.
Sex work Sex work, often referred to as prostitution, is the exchange of sexual intercourse or other sexual activity for money or goods. Both women and men can be sex workers.
Sexual activity Any activity, alone or with a partner, which involves direct or indirect stimulation of sexual organs.
Sexual identity Some see sexual identity as gender, defining one as a male or female. Others see it as being identical to sexual orientation (the object of one’s affectional feelings be it opposite sex, same sex, or both. Other believe that sexual identity is comprised of four components: biological sex, gender identity, social sex-role, and sexual orientation.
Sexual intercourse The definition of sexual intercourse varies. Some people consider only penetrative intercourse (Vaginal/anal) as forms of sexual intercourse. Condoms are the most effective means of preventing the transmission of HIV from sexual intercourse.
Sexual orientation Refers to an individual’s pattern of sexual attraction In Western terms, individuals are seen as heterosexual (attracted to the opposite sex), homosexual (attracted to the same sex) or bisexual (attracted to both sexes). In other cultures, sexual identity and sexual orientation are often defined differently.
Sexual transmitted disease See sexual transmitted infection
Sexual transmitted
An STI (also known as sexually transmitted disease or STD) is any infection transmitted through sexual intercourse. STIs, which cause lesions or ulcers, such as gonorrhea, increase the risk of transmitting HIV.
Social marketing Male and female condoms are sold through social marketing in many parts of Africa. This comprises an affordable, subsidized price and marketing and sales similar to commercial products. This approach increases sales and helps to remove the stigma of condoms and sexual intercourse.
Spermicide A cream, gel, foam, film or pessary that kills sperm and so works as a contraceptive for use with a condom. Some protect against HIV also (microbicides).
STD or STI See sexually transmitted infection.
Stigma Stigma is described as a quality that significantly discredits an individual in the eyes of another. HIV/AIDS related stigma comes from the powerful combination of shame and fear – shame because the sex or drug injecting that transmit HIV are surrounded by taboo and moral judgement and fear because AIDS is relatively new and considered deadly.
Subclinical Infection Infection that does not cause disease symptoms but can be detected by laboratory tests on blood and other tissues.
Sugar Daddy
Sugar Mommy
In some cultures the slang term used for older men who pay, directly or in kind, for the sexual services of younger women, or for the older women who similarly pay for the sexual services of younger men.
Symptomatic A person with HIV is asymptomatic; a person with AIDS is symptomatic.
Taboo Contrary to society’s customs and / or laws. Despite taboos, many sexual practices such as oral and anal intercourse exist in many, if not all societies.
T- 4 (helper) cells See CD4 cells.
Testing See HIV antibody testing, counseling, rapid tests.
Thrush A fungal infection often severe in people with HIV/AIDS, causing a heavy white coating in the mouth, throat or gut or the genital lining (Candida)
Toxoid Is an inactivated toxin (the harmful substance produced by a microbe). Many organisms that infect people are not in themselves harmful. It is the toxins they produce that cause disease. Scientists have manufactured vaccines that completely stop the production of these toxins in the body. Toxoids are used in tetanus and diptheria vaccines.
Treatment Antiretrovirals (ARVs) are the primary method of treating HIV. ARVs inhibit either of the two enzymes that are essential for HIV replication, namely, reverse transcriptase and protease. Antiretroviral drugs do not cure HIV/AIDS but they do prolong the lives of those infected with HIV.
Triple Therapy Use of three antiretrovirals together as a treatment for AIDS.
Tuberculosis (TB) Chronic bacterial disease of the lungs and sometimes other organs; common with AIDS. TB is treatable with various antibiotics, although multi-drug resistant TB (MDRTB) is an increasing problem world wide.
Unprotected Unprotected intercourse is intercourse without use of male or female condom. Unprotected intercourse can lead to transmission of HIV and other STIs.
Unsafe Sex HIV risk behaviours include unprotected sex with multiple partners, poor and inconsistent male condom usage, dry sex, anal sex, and sex while infected with sexually transmitted infections.
Unscreened Unscreened blood has not been tested for HIV antibodies and may carry HIV. See also screen.
Vaccine A vaccine is a substance that teaches the body to recognize and defend itself against bacteria and viruses that cause disease. A vaccine causes a response from the immune system (the body’s defence system) preparing it to fight if exposed to the virus at a later time. A vaccine can cause the body to stop or disable an invading virus. A vaccine is not a cure, but ideally prevents infection or slows disease regression.
Vaginal fluid Fluid produced by the mucous membranes - lining – of the vagina.
Vaginal intercourse Penetration of a vagina by a penis.
Viral load Is the number of HIV particles in the blood. The total viral load is the amount of HIV in your blood, lymph nodes, spleen, and other parts of your body. If your viral load measurement is high, it indicates that HIV is reproducing, and that the disease will likely progress faster than if your viral load is low.
Viral load test Measures the number of HIV particles in the blood. These tests detect a kind of protein strand called RNA, which is a part of HIV containing the genes of the virus. Each HIV particle contains two copies of a molecule called RNA that carries the HIV genes. The viral load test determines the number of copies of HIV RNA molecules in a sample of blood.
Virus A micro-organism which capable of independent life and reproduction within a living cell. Most viruses store the genetic information they need to reproduce in DNA. Retroviruses, such as HIV, store their genetic information in RNA.
Wasting syndrome Term used to define the rapid loss of weight that often accompanies the development of AIDS.
Western Blot See ELISA.
Window period It takes the immune system up to three months to produce antibodies to HIV that can be measured in the HIV antibody test. During this window period, an individual tests negative for the virus but is nevertheless capable of transmitting it to other.



Aggleton, P. & Parker, R. World AIDS Campaign 2002 – 2003: A conceptual Framework and Basis for Action. HIV/AIDS Stigma and Discrimination. 2002. UNAIDS.

Bosely, S. 2003. Saving Grace. In: The Guardian UK, 18 February 2003

Foreman, M. ABC of HIV/AIDS. In: Media and HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa. 2000. UNESCO

Jackson, H. 2002. AIDS Africa: Continent in Crisis. SAfAIDS/UNESCO/SIDA

Kelly, K; Parker, W; Gelb, S. HIV/AIDS, Economics and Governance in South Africa: Key Issues in Understanding Response. 2002. USAID.

Nadi, G; Akyol, Z. & Alibhai, N. Reporting on HIV/AIDS: A Resource Guide. Not dated. African Womens Media Centre.

Peri-Natal HIV Research Unit. Opportunistic Infections. Brochure.

South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI). 2002. Introducing HIV/AIDS Vaccines. SAAVI.

Shisana, O. et al. 2002. Nelson Mandela/HSRC Study of HIV/AIDS: South African National HIV Prevalence, Behavioural Risks and Mass Media. HSRC.

Van Praag, E; Fernyak, S; Katz, A.M. 1997. The implications of antiretroviral treatments: Informal Consultations. WHO/UNAIDS.

UNESCO/UNAIDS. 2001. HIV/AIDS and Human Rights: Young People in Action. Paris.

UNESCO. 2000. Media & HIV/AIDS in East and Southern Africa: A resource book. Paris.

Top of page


Afro-AIDS Info: Portal for Southern Africa

AIDS Education, Global Information System (Aegis)

AIDS Treatment Data Network

AIDS Law Project



Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)

Centres for Disease Control (CDC)

Emory University

Gender and HIV/AIDS

Gender Links

HIV Insite

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

Medline Plus

Merck, Sharp &Dohme

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

The National AIDS Treatment Information Project

PANOS Institute

SA Health Info

South African Department of Health

South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative (SAAVI)

Southern African AIDS Information and Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS)

The Treatment Action Campaign



Top of page

Media Sites

African Womens Media Centre (AWMC)

Media Channel

Media Institute of Southern Africa

Fonds Pascal de Croos


Top of page



About us | Latest SA News | Search Archives | Factsheets | Key Documents
| Contacts Database | Events Calendar | Links | Contact Us | CADRE |