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STD Related Terms

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  • Abdomen

  • The part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, reproductive organs, and other organs.

  • Abstinence

  • Refraining from sexual intercourse.

  • Acute

  • Refers to intense, short-term symptoms or illnesses that either resolve or evolve into long-lasting, chronic disease manifestations.

  • Acyclovir (ZOVIRAX)

  • An antiviral drug used in the treatment of herpes simplex virus 1 (fever blisters, cold sores), herpes simplex virus 2 (genital herpes) and herpes zoster (shingles). Acyclovir comes in the form of pills, ointment or injection. The drug functions as a nucleoside analog, but must be converted to an active (phosphated) form by the thymidine kinase enzyme produced only by cells infected by certain herpes viruses, including varicella zoster virus (shingles) and herpes simplex-1 and -2. Acyclovir causes few side effects--occasionally nausea, diarrhea or headaches. It is now available in a generic form.

  • AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)

  • The late stage of the illness triggered by infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). According to the official definition published by the CDC, a person receives an AIDS diagnosis when he or she has a CD4 (helper T-cell) count of less that 200 and/or certain opportunistic infections common with advanced immune deficiency. Click here for more information about HIV and AIDS, or call the CDC National STD and AIDS Hotlines at 800-342-AIDS.

  • AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG)

  • A network of medical centers around the country in which federally-funded clinical trials are conducted to test the safety and effectiveness of experimental treatments for AIDS and HIV infection. ACTG studies are sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

  • AIDS Dementia Complex

  • A frequent cerebral condition in people with AIDS that results in the loss of cognitive capacity, affecting the ability to function in a social or occupational setting. Its cause has not been determined exactly, but may result from HIV infection of cells in the brain or an inflammatory reaction to such infection.

  • Alternative Medicine

  • A catch-all phrase for a long list of treatments or medicinal systems including traditional systems such as Chinese medicine, homeopathy, various herbals and other miscellaneous treatments that have not been accepted by the mainstream, or Western, medical establishment. Alternative medicine is also referred to as complementary medicine (see also). The designation 'alternative medicine' is not equivalent to 'holistic medicine,' which is a more narrow term. See Holistic Medicine.

  • Analgesic

  • Refers to a compound that reduces pain. Tylenol, aspirin and the opiates are examples of analgesic drugs.

  • Anesthesia

  • Loss of feeling or awareness. A local anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a part of the body. A general anesthetic puts the person to sleep.

  • Antibiotic

  • A substance, especially one similar to those produced by certain fungi for destroying bacteria, that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms. An antibiotic is used to combat disease and infection.

  • Antibody

  • A disease-fighting protein in the blood created by the immune system, also known as immunoglobulin. Antibodies coat, mark for immune destruction or render harmless foreign particles like bacteria, viruses or harmful toxins. Antibodies also tag infected cells, making them vulnerable to attack by the immune system. Each antibody attaches itself to a single specific chemical sequence on an antigen. Elements of the body's immune response, these substances circulate in the blood and in other bodily fluids to fight disease-causing microbes.

  • Antigen

  • A foreign substance, usually protein, such as a fragment of a virus or bacteria, that stimulates an immune response with antibodies or other defenses. An antigen contains several subunits called epitopes (see) that are targets of specific antibodies and cytotoxic T-lymphocytes.

  • Antiretroviral

  • A substance that stops or suppresses the activity of a retrovirus such as HIV. AZT, ddC, ddI and d4T are examples of antiretroviral drugs.

  • Asymptomatic

  • Without signs or symptoms of disease or illness.

  • Asymptomatic transmission of herpes

  • The spread of virus from one person to another during a period of asymptomatic shedding, i.e., the body sheds virus in the absence of symptoms.

  • Atrophy

  • A wasting or shrinking of cells, tissue, organs or muscle.

  • Autoinoculation

  • The spread of a microorganism such as a virus from one part the body to another.

  • Autoinoculation of herpes simplex virus (HSV)

  • The spread of HSV from one part of the body to another. This can result when a person with active herpes deposits a significant amount of virus onto some other vulnerable part of the body--most often a mucous membrane.

  • AZT (RETROVIR, ZIDOVUDINE)

  • A nucleoside analog used to slow replication of HIV. AZT is approved for the initial treatment of HIV infection. AZT is increasingly administered in combination with other antiviral drugs, especially 3TC (a combination that is under consideration by the FDA as another initial treatment regimen for HIV) as well as ddC (an FDA-approved combination for persons with progressive disease and CD4 cell counts below 300). Possible side effects include bone marrow suppression leading to anemia, leukopenia or neutropenia nausea, muscle weakness and headaches.


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STD Terms






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