Glossary of Frequently Used Terms


At SAAF, we speak the language of HIV in terms of both prevention and treatment. Here are some of the most important words and definitions you need to know.

Seroconversion/Window Period:

The length of time after infection that it takes for a person to develop enough specific antibodies to be detected by our current testing methods. For our current test, this is 4 weeks to 12 weeks. It is best that you re-test 12 weeks after an event that may have put you at risk.

Acute HIV Infection:

Time period following HIV infection during which HIV virus can be detected in blood but antibodies are not. During this time, individuals with acute HIV infection are extremely infectious due to a very high viral load.

Acute Retroviral Syndrome:

Flu-like symptoms of acute HIV infection that appear 1 to 4 weeks after infection. Acute infection may also be without symptoms (asymptomatic)


An association of disgrace or public disapproval with something, such as an action or condition


where one partner is HIV negative and the other is HIV positive

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP):

A way for HIV-negative people who are at very high risk to prevent getting an HIV infection by taking a pill every day

Treatment as Prevention (TasP):

The use of antiretroviral (ARV) medication to decrease the risk of HIV transmission in someone who is HIV-positive


A substance produced by the body to fight disease


a substance that causes the body to produce antibodies

Viral Load Count:

The amount of HIV in a sample of your blood

Cd4 lymphocyte cells:

A special cell of the immune system that is targeted by HIV

CD4 Count:

The number of CD4 T lymphocytes (CD4 cells) in a sample of your blood


A viral infection that damages the immune system weakening the body's defenses against other infections


The stage of HIV infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable to opportunistic infections

Dual infection:

When someone is infected with 2 or more strains of HIV


Getting HIV strains from multiple partners prior to seroconversion


Getting a second or multiple HIV strain after seroconversion. This is of concern because it may lead to drug-resistance and faster disease progression

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV):

A common viral STD that causes painful genital sores

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV):

A common viral STD that can cause genital warts or cervical cancer in women


A common bacterial STD that can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men. Gonorrhea has progressively developed resistance to the antibiotic drugs used to treat it (CDC, 2016).


A common bacterial STD which can damage a woman's reproductive organs

Hepatitis A (HAV):

A vaccine-preventable viral infection that causes non-chronic liver disease

Hepatitis B (HAB):

A vaccine-preventable viral infection that causes liver disease that can cause short and mild sickness or serious and lifelong illness

Hepatitis C (HCV):

A viral infection that causes liver disease that often results in lifelong illness


A common STD caused by a parasite that can cause genital irritation


a bacterial STD that can cause serious and permanent health problems – including death - if left untreated

Bacterial vaginosis (BV):

A condition in women where the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted and replaced by an overgrowth of certain bacteria

Yeast Infection:

A common fungal infection that can cause genital irritation and discharge

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID):

A common and serious complication of some STDs that can permanently damage a woman's reproductive organs, which may also lead to infertility

Intrauterine Device (IUD):

A small T-shaped device that is put in the uterus by a healthcare provider, generally to prevent pregnancy

Recommended Reading

The Body - The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource
Official Website of the San Antonio HIV Health Services Planning Council
Texas Department of State Health Services: HIV-STD Program
HIV & AIDS - sharing knowledge, changing lives
Until it's over: AIDS Action
AIDS Information, Education, Action, Awareness | HIV, AIDS Facts
The Foundation for AIDS Research
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
AIDS meds
PrEP Locator: Find your provider
What Do I Do? A Handbook to Understanding Health & HIV