Intro

If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed with HIV, you undoubtedly have a lot of questions about what the condition means for you and your future.

One of the challenges of an HIV diagnosis is navigating through a whole new set of acronyms, slang, and terminology. Don't worry: we're here to help. Hover over the 45 most commonly used terms and lingo to see what they mean, and get a better understanding on the condition.

Back to word bank

HIV-1

The retrovirus that causes most AIDS cases worldwide.

Back to word bank

Prevalence

The percentage of a population infected with a certain infection—in this case, HIV.

Back to word bank

AIDS

Stands for "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome," a condition that results in serious damage to the immune system. It is caused by the HIV infection.

Back to word bank

PrEP

"PrEP" stands for "pre-exposure prophylaxis," a strategy of using ARV medications (including rings, gel, or pill) for preventing HIV infection.

Back to word bank

Concordant

Refers to a couple in which both partners have HIV.

Back to word bank

Non-compliance

Not sticking to a prescribed regimen of medications. The opposite of “adherence.” Non-compliance can make treatment much less effective.

Back to word bank

Seronegative

Testing negatively for the presence of HIV antibodies.

Back to word bank

AIDS cocktail

A combination of treatments for HIV known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

Back to word bank

Side effects

Effects that treatment medications have on the body, ranging from short-term and hardly noticeable to long-term, that are not intended for the treatment of the disease and generally unpleasant.

Back to word bank

ART

Stands for "antiretroviral therapy," which is the use of antiretroviral drugs for preventing HIV from progressing.

Back to word bank

Stigma

Prejudice and discrimination aimed toward people with HIV or AIDS.

Back to word bank

CD4 count

CD4 cells (also known as T-cells) activate the body’s immune system, allowing the body to fight off infections. Keeping the number of CD4 cells (your CD4 count) in the desired range is a very important part of HIV treatment.

Back to word bank

Get tested

Encouragement to sexually active people to be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Back to word bank

Know your status

An oft-heard phrase encouraging people to get tested for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, so that they can make informed, responsible decisions (and get treatment if necessary).

Back to word bank

False positive

When a blood test gives a positive for the presence of HIV antibodies, but the infection isn’t actually there. Sometimes the ELISA test will give a positive result while the Western blot test gives a negative result.

Back to word bank

Serosorting

Making decisions about sexual activity based on a partner's status. Assumptions regarding status can be dangerous, however, as is discussed in this slideshow.

Back to word bank

Seropositive

Testing positively for the presence of HIV antibodies.

Back to word bank

HIV criminalization

When the transmission of HIV is considered to be a crime. This is a complicated legal and moral issue, and related laws vary from state to state.

Back to word bank

Seroconversion

The process in which the autoimmune system produces antibodies to attack an invading virus. You may not have a detectable level of HIV antibodies during this process. Read more about seroconversion time.

Back to word bank

Safer sex

Taking precautions against the transmission of sexually transmitted infection through preventive measures. Find out more about safer, healthy sex.

Back to word bank

Elisa

Stands for "enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay." It is a blood test that checks for the presence of HIV antibodies. A positive result on this test means a follow-up Western blot test, which is more accurate (but more expensive).

Back to word bank

Meds

Slang for "medications," which are drugs used for treating HIV. There are many different courses of medication for HIV.

Back to word bank

Transmitted resistance

Infection with an HIV strain that is already resistant to particular antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that would be used for treating it.

Back to word bank

Adverse Event

An unsavory side effect of a medication being used for treatment. Adverse events can range from milder yet unpleasant side effects, such as fatigue and nausea, to more serious conditions such as pancreatitis and depression.

Back to word bank

Celibacy

Abstaining from sexual activity. People sometimes choose to become celibate after an HIV diagnosis in order to prevent the infection‘ s spread.

Back to word bank

Western blot test

A blood test for checking the presence of HIV antibodies. Its accuracy rate is almost 100 percent in combination with the ELISA test. Read more about HIV tests.

Back to word bank

Asymptomatic

A phase of HIV infection in which no outward symptoms or signs of the condition can be observed. In some cases, this phase can last a long time.

Back to word bank

Living with HIV

According to the CDC, there are nearly 1.1. million people in the U.S. who live with HIV. Read our patient guide to living with HIV.

Back to word bank

Viral load

The level of HIV in your blood. If your viral load is high, your CD4 count is low. Get a better understanding of what viral load means.

Back to word bank

ARV

Stands for "antiretroviral," which is the type of drug used in antiretroviral therapy (ART) for suppressing the HIV virus.

Back to word bank

Undetectable

This refers to a viral load that is so low that tests cannot detect it. It does not mean that a patient no longer has HIV. Learn more here.

Back to word bank

False negative

When a blood test gives a negative result for the presence of HIV antibodies, but the infection is actually there. This may occur if someone is newly infected and has not yet begun producing HIV antibodies. People who think they may have been exposed to HIV might need to be tested multiple times.

Back to word bank

MSM

Stands for "men who have sex with men." This term is often preferred to "homosexual" in discussions of HIV and AIDS, depending on community or context.

Back to word bank

Serodiscordant

Another term for a mixed-status relationship, in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not. Possible synonyms include: mixed sero-status, sero-divergent, inter-viral, positive-negative.

Back to word bank

Mixed status

When one partner in a couple is HIV-positive and one is not. Other terms for this include "serodiscordant" and "magnetic." Read more about dating with HIV.

Back to word bank

Reducing risk

Taking up behaviors that bring down the likelihood of exposure to or spread of HIV. Examples include consistent and correct use of condoms, getting tested for sexually transmitted infections, not sharing needles, and more. Read more about risk factors for HIV.

Back to word bank

HIV-2

Closely related to HIV-1, this retrovirus causes AIDS but is mostly found in West Africa. Learn more about the two types of HIV here.

Back to word bank

HIV neutral

The Stigma Project defines "HIV neutral" as being an informed advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Back to word bank

Activism

Promoting change of some kind: social, political, or otherwise. There is a ton of activism for HIV awareness, research, and more by individuals and groups throughout the world.

Back to word bank

Adherence

Taking HIV medications exactly as prescribed. Adherence helps lower your viral load and prevents drug resistance. Other terms for this include "compliance" and "med compliance."

Back to word bank

Regimen

A prescribed course of treatment for a particular condition. Learn about the evolution of HIV treatments here.

Back to word bank

T-cell

Also known as a CD4 cell. The T-cells trigger the body's immune system to fight off infection.

Back to word bank

Longevity

Refers to the length of time that someone with HIV can potentially live. Longevity has increased with antiretroviral treatment.

Back to word bank

Empowerment

To be invested with power: spiritual, political, social, or otherwise. People living with HIV can feel empowered in a way that keeps their condition from defining their lives.

Back to word bank

Long-term survivor

Someone who has lived with HIV for several years. Some people live with HIV for decades.

Back to word bank