HIV Health & Wellness Definitions

Common Definitions

Adherence refers to taking HIV medications exactly as they are prescribed. Adherence helps lower a person’s viral load and prevents drug resistance.

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. This condition results in serious damage to the immune system and is the most advanced stage of HIV.

ARV is short for antiretroviral, which is the type of drug used for suppressing HIV.

ART is short for antiretroviral therapy, which is the use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV from progressing.

Asymptomatic is a phase of HIV when the person affected has no outward symptoms or signs of the condition. In some cases, this phase can last a long time.

CD4 count refers to the number of CD4 (T cells) a person has. Keeping the CD4 count in the desired range is an important part of HIV treatment.

Concordant refers to a couple in which both partners have HIV.

Diagnosis is the identification of a disease.

HIV-1 is the retrovirus that causes most HIV cases worldwide.

HIV-2 is closely related to HIV-1 but is mostly found in West Africa.

Mixed status is a couple with one partner who is HIV positive and one who isn’t.

Noncompliance refers to not sticking to a prescribed medication regimen. It is the opposite of adherence and can make treatment much less effective.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) means taking medicine to prevent HIV after possible exposure.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is medication taken to prevent getting HIV.

Prognosis is the likely course of a disease.

Regimen is a prescribed course of treatment for a particular condition.

Seronegative is to test negatively for the presence of HIV antibodies.

Seropositive means to test positively for the presence of HIV antibodies.

T cells are white blood cells that activate the body’s immune system, allowing the body to fight infections. The types of T cells that HIV infect are CD4 cells.

Treatment as prevention (TasP) refers to the practice of HIV-positive people taking HIV medications in order to reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative sexual partner.

U = U is a slogan from the Prevention Access Campaign and is used to express that a person with an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV.

Viral load is the level of HIV in a person’s blood. It’s expressed as copies of HIV per milliliter (mL) of blood. If a person’s viral load count is high, their CD4 count is low.

Viral suppression is the goal of HIV treatment. An HIV-positive person achieves viral suppression when they have under 200 copies of HIV/mL in their blood.

Undetectable is used to refer to a viral load that is so low that tests cannot detect it. Viral loads are generally considered undetectable when they are under 50 copies of HIV/mL.

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