HIV Dictionary

This list defines how we use important terms related to HIV treatment, prevention, sexual orientation, and other topics we write about on this site. Click on any term to learn more about it on this website.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS): The last stage of an HIV infection where your immune system becomes too weak to fight infections. Medical care can help stop an HIV infection from turning into AIDS.

Adherence: Taking a medicine, like antiretrovirals or PrEP, every day so that the medicine will work.

Ally: Someone who supports sexual and gender minorities.

AntibodySomething your body makes to fight off anything it thinks might make you sick.

Antibody TestAn HIV test that tests your blood for HIV antibodies.

AntigenAnother name for anything that can make you sick.

Antigen/Antibody Test: An HIV test that tests your blood for HIV antibodies and antigens.

Antiretrovirals (ARVs): Drugs or medications used for HIV treatment.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The part of the United States government that creates and runs plans to control the effects of disease, injury, and disability on the public.

Coming out (of the closet): When someone shares their sexual orientation or gender identity to others.

Cultural sensitivity/competence/tailoring/humility: When a person or group uses skills or strategies to better understand and relate to another’s culture.

Disclosure (of HIV status): When someone shares that they are HIV-positive to others.

Home Collection Kit: An HIV testing kit that you can buy at a drug store or online.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): A disease that weakens your immune system and makes it harder for your body to fight infections. HIV cannot be cured, but it can be managed with medical care.

Immune system: The many parts of your body that work together to fight germs, cancers, and diseases.

LGBTQ+: A phrase that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and all others who see themselves as part of a sexual and/or gender minority group.

Men who have sex with men (MSM): Includes gay, bisexual, queer, and other same-gender-loving men who have sex with other men.

Minority men: On this website, minority men are people who themselves as men who are Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, or both. Beyond this website, a minority man can be any man who does not fit in with the majority. This could mean that the man is of a race, financial, sexual, or any other group that is not the most common in a community or society.

Men of colorMen who have sex with men that see themselves as Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, or both. Beyond this website, MSM of color is any MSM who is not white or of European descent.

Nucleic Acid Test (NAT)An HIV test that tests your blood for the virus.

People of color: People who see themselves as Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, or both. Beyond this website, a person of color is to anyone who is not white or of European descent.

Persons living with HIV (PLWH): Includes anyone who is HIV-positive, even if someone doesn’t know they have HIV.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP): An emergency pill that is taken daily for one month after a one-time exposure to HIV. It must be started as soon as possible, or within 72 hours after exposure.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): An oral, HIV medication that must be taken daily to lower someone’s risk of getting HIV.

Prophylaxis: Doing something to lower your risk of getting a disease or condition. An example would be taking anti-HIV medicine to lower your risk of getting HIV. Even drinking water so you won’t become thirsty on a hot day is a type of prophylaxis.

Race: A category people put others or themselves into based on the way they look. It is most often used to describe someone’s skin color.

Rapid HIV TestAn HIV test that can tell you if you have HIV in under 30 minutes.

Seroconcordant: A couple or relationship where each person has HIV.

Serodiscordant: A couple or relationship where at least one person has HIV but the other(s) do not.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STDs/STIs): Diseases and infections that spread from sexual contact. Examples of STDs are HIV, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Most can be cured with medical treatment.

Stigma: When society thinks poorly of someone or a group of people because of one or more of their traits.

Strain: Different versions of a bacteria or virus. Some versions may be harder to treat than others.

Treatment as prevention (TaSP): When someone who is HIV-positive is on HIV treatment to prevent giving HIV to someone else.

Truvada: The brand name for the medication the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says can be used as PrEP for HIV. Truvada is made by the company Gilead. Their pill has two types of antiretrovirals inside it called emtricitabine and tenofovir.

U=U: HIV-positive people who take their antiretroviral medicine every day to keep their viral load undetectable have almost no risk of giving the virus to an HIV-negative partner during sex. In other words, if someone with HIV has an undetectable viral load, the virus is untransmittable, or U=U.

Undetectable: When someone’s viral load is so low that it cannot be read with a blood test.

Untransmittable: When someone who is HIV-positive is not likely to give HIV to someone else. This happens when they’re virally suppressed or undetectable.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The part of the United States government that checks and approves the quality of food, medicine, vaccines, makeup, and more before it is sold to the public.

Viral load: The amount of HIV in the blood of someone who has HIV.

Virally suppressed: When someone with HIV has less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of their blood.

Window PeriodThe time between when you come in contact with HIV and when a test can tell if you have HIV. Different HIV tests have different window periods. This means that some HIV tests can find the virus in your body a few days or weeks before another type of HIV test can find it.