Helpful HIV terms
Key words to help you understand HIV/AIDS
Push the play button next to a key term to hear how to pronounce it.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
The act or ability to take the right amount of your medications at the same time, every day, as directed by your healthcare provider. If you miss a dose, your medications can stop working and it can lead to drug resistance.
CD4+ Cell Count
A measurement of the number of CD4+ cells in your blood that helps your healthcare provider make decisions about treatment. It also may show if your treatment is working. A normal CD4+ cell count is usually between 500 and 1400 cells/mm3.
A research study that uses human volunteers to help find new treatments for diseases and conditions.
The amount of a medicine that should be taken during a given time.
A group of medications that have things in common and work in a similar way.
This may happen when two medications are taken together and it causes one of the medications to work differently, or not work at all. Drug-drug interactions may cause side effects that don’t usually happen with either medication alone.
When the HIV virus changes (mutates), medications become less effective and are unable to slow the advancement of HIV. This may happen even when someone is taking medications that would normally fight the infection.
High Genetic Barrier to Resistance
A medication with a high genetic barrier to resistance may help to prevent some changes (mutations) in HIV, or at least maintain some activity against them.
When your body defends itself against a foreign invader, such as a virus or bacteria.
The group of cells and organs whose job is to protect your body from infections.
Opportunistic Infection (OI)
Infection that takes advantage of weakness in the immune system and may cause serious illnesses.
Protease Inhibitors (PIs)
PIs belong to a class of HIV medications that prevents new copies of HIV from being produced. PIs block a protein called protease. Without protease, HIV can’t make copies of itself and infect more cells in the body.
When a medication causes a reaction in the body that it is not meant to cause. It’s usually a feeling or condition that you don’t want, such as headache, skin irritation, or liver damage.
Refers to a person’s ability to take a medication, even if they are experiencing side effects.
A person with HIV who is currently taking HIV medications or who has taken HIV medications in the past.
A plan of treatment, usually with medication.
Undetectable Viral Load
When the amount of HIV in your blood is so low that it can’t be measured on a viral load test. Having an undetectable viral load is a good thing, but it does not mean your HIV is cured — and you can still pass it to others.
The amount of HIV found in your blood. When your viral load goes up or down, your healthcare provider can get an idea of how well an HIV treatment is working.