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HIV/AIDS

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Glossary of HIV/AIDS Terms

for Health Care Providers

Glossary of HIV/AIDS Terms

UNAIDS

Joint United Nations Program on AIDS

Universal Precautions

A simple set of effective practices designed to protect health workers and patients from infection with a range of pathogens, including blood-borne viruses. These practices are used when caring for all patients regardless of diagnosis.

Uptake

Usually, the numbers of individuals who agree to a procedure such as the number of pregnant women who agree to take an HIV test or agree to participate in prenatal care.

Vaccination

Inoculation of a substance (i.e. vaccine) into the body for the purpose of producing active immunity against a disease. Initially associated with smallpox vaccination but now often used interchangeably with immunization.

See Vaccine.

Vaccine

A substance that contains antigenic components from an infectious microorganism. By stimulating an immune response--but not the disease--it protects against subsequent infection by that organism. There can be preventive vaccines (e.g. measles or mumps) as well as therapeutic (treatment) vaccines.

See Therapeutic HIV Vaccine; Antigen.

Vaginal Candidiasis

Infection of the vagina caused by the yeastlike fungus Candida (especially Candida albicans). Symptoms include, pain, itching, redness, and white patches in the vaginal wall. It can occur in all women, but it is especially common in women with HIV infection. The usual treatment is a cream applied locally to the vagina. Women with HIV infection may experience frequent reoccurrence of symptoms and may require systemic medications in order to treat these symptoms successfully.

See Candidiasis.

Vaginal Intercourse

A type of sexual intercourse in which the man's penis enters the woman's vagina.

Vaginal Sex

Vaginal intercourse.

Valley Fever

See Coccidioidomycosis.

Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV)

A virus in the herpes family that causes chicken pox during childhood and may reactivate later in life to cause shingles in immunosuppressed individuals.

VCT

Voluntary counseling and testing

VDRL

(Venereal diseases research laboratory) A test for syphilis.

Venipuncture

The puncture of a vein (usually in the arm) with a hollow-bore needle for the purpose of obtaining a blood specimen.

Vertical Transmission

Transmission of a pathogen such as HIV from mother to fetus or baby during pregnancy or birth.

See Perinatal Transmission.

Viral Burden/Viral Load

The amount of HIV in the circulating blood. Monitoring a person's viral burden is important because of the apparent correlation between the amount of virus in the blood and the severity of the disease. Sicker patients generally have more virus than those with less advanced disease. A sensitive, rapid test--called the viral load assay for HIV-1 infection--can be used to monitor the HIV viral burden. This procedure may help clinicians decide when to give anti-HIV therapy or to switch drugs. It may also help investigators determine more quickly whether experimental HIV therapies are effective.

See Viral Load Test; Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR); Branched DNA Assay.

Viral Culture

A laboratory method for growing viruses.

Viral Load Test

In relation to HIV, a test that measures the quantity of HIV RNA in the blood. Results are expressed as the number of copies per milliliter of blood plasma. Research indicates that viral load is a better predictor of the risk of HIV disease progression than the CD4 count. The lower the viral load, the longer the time to AIDS diagnosis and the longer the survival time. Viral load testing for HIV infection is being used to determine when to initiate and/or change therapy.

See Viral Burden/Viral Load.

Viramune

See Nevirapine (NVP).

Viremia

The presence of virus in the bloodstream.

See Sepsis.

Viricide

Any agent that destroys or inactivates a virus.

Virion

A virus particle existing freely outside a host cell. A mature virus.

Virologic Suppression

Suppression of viral replication (eg, HIV) by antiviral therapy.

Virology

The study of viruses and viral disease.

Virus

Organism composed mainly of nucleic acid within a protein coat. When viruses enter a living plant, animal, or bacterial cell, they make use of the host cell's chemical energy, protein, and nucleic acid-synthesizing ability to multiply. Some viruses do not kill cells but transform them into a cancerous state. Some cause illness and then seem to disappear, while remaining dormant and later causing another, sometimes much more severe, form of disease. In humans, viruses cause measles, mumps, yellow fever, poliomyelitis, influenza, and the common cold, among others. Some viral infections can be treated with drugs.

Visceral

Involving the major organs inside the body.

Voluntary HIV Testing

An individual is usually counseled regarding HIV prevention and how HIV infection occurs. Participants have the opportunity to accept or refuse HIV testing.

VTC

Voluntary testing and counseling

VTR

Vertical transmission rate