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STD Related Terms

- P -

  • Pap Smear

  • A way to examine cells collected from the cervix and vagina. This test can show the presence of infection, inflammation, abnormal cells, or cancer.

  • Pap Test

  • A way to examine cells collected from the cervix and vagina. This test can show the presence of infection, inflammation, abnormal cells, or cancer. Also called a Pap smear.

  • Papillomavirus

  • The virus group that includes the cause of genital warts or condylomata.

  • Papule

  • A small elevation or bump on the skin.

  • Pathologist

  • A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.


  • A pneumonia caused by an infection with Pneumocystis carinii. P. carinii grows rapidly in the lungs of people with AIDS and is the leading AIDS-related cause of death. P. carinii infection sometimes may occur elsewhere in the body (skin, eye, spleen, liver or heart). There are inexpensive drugs that can prevent and treat PCP.


  • A very sensitive test that measures the presence or amount of RNA or DNA of a specific organism or virus (for example, HIV or CMV) in the blood or tissue.

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

  • A gynecological condition caused by an infection (usually sexually transmitted) that spreads from the vagina to the upper parts of a women's reproductive tract in the pelvic cavity. PID takes different courses in different women, but can cause abscesses and constant pain almost anywhere in the genital tract. If left untreated, it can cause infertility or more frequent periods. Severe cases may even spread to the liver and kidneys causing dangerous internal bleeding, lung failure and death.

  • Pelvis

  • The lower part of the abdomen between the hip bones. Organs in a female's pelvis include the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.

  • Peptide

  • Two or more chemically-linked amino acids.

  • Perinatal Transmission

  • Transmission of a pathogen, such as HIV, from mother to baby during birth.

  • Peripheral Neuropathy

  • A condition characterized by sensory loss, pain, muscle weakness and wasting of muscle in the hands or legs and feet. It may start with burning or tingling sensations or numbness in the toes and fingers. In severe cases, paralysis may result. Peripheral neuropathy may arise from an HIV-related condition or be the side effect of certain drugs.

  • Peyronie's disease

  • A disease of unknown cause in which there are strands of dense fibrous tissue surrounding the corpus cavernosum of the penis, causing deformity and painful erection. Also known as penile fibromatosis.

  • Pharmacokinetics

  • The extent the body is able to absorb, distribute and eliminate a drug over time.

  • Phase I

  • The earliest stage clinical trial for studying an experimental drug in humans. Phase I trials are generally comparatively small. They provide an initial evaluation of a drug's safety and pharmacokinetics

  • Phase II

  • A more advanced stage clinical trial that follows the Phase I trials. A phase II trial gathers preliminary information on whether an experimental drug works. Data often are based on laboratory assays that provide quick, but indirect measurements of a drug's effect on disease (see surrogate marker).

  • Phase III

  • An advanced stage clinical trial that should conclusively show how well a drug works as compared to other treatments. Phase III trials are large, frequently multisite, tests. They should measure whether a new drug extends survival or otherwise improves the health of patients on treatment (clinical improvement) rather than just provide surrogate marker data. These studies generally last longer and are larger than phase II trials.

  • Phosphorylation

  • The addition of a phosphate group (phosphorus plus four oxygen atoms) to an organic molecule.


  • A serious infection of the upper genital tract in women. It often damages the fallopian tubes, making it difficult or impossible for a woman to have children.

  • Placebo

  • A comparison substance against which experimental drugs are sometimes compared. A placebo may be either a standard treatment or an inactive substance. In placebo-controlled trials the control group takes placebo, while the test group takes an experimental drug. Many such studies are also double-blinded, which means that neither doctors nor patients know who is receiving drug or placebo.

  • Polyp

  • A mass of tissue that develops on the inside wall of a hollow organ.

  • Precancerous

  • Not cancerous, but may become cancerous with time.

  • Pre-clinical

  • Refers to the testing of experimental drugs in the test tube or in animals

  • Primary HIV Infection

  • The flu-like syndrome that occurs immediately after a person contracts HIV. This initial infection precedes seroconversion and is characterized by fever, sore throat, headache, skin rash and swollen glands. Also called acute infection.

  • Principal Investigator

  • The head researcher responsible for organizing and overseeing a clinical trial.

  • Prodrome

  • An early warning symptom of illness. (i.e., prodrome for a genital herpes outbreak often involves an aching, burning, itching, or tingling sensation in the genital area, buttocks, or legs).

  • Prodrug

  • A compound that must undergo chemical conversion within the body to change to its active form that has medical effects. Prodrugs are useful when the active drug may be too toxic to administer systemically, the active drug is absorbed poorly by the digestive tract, or the body breaks down the active drug before it reaches its target.

  • Prognosis

  • The probable outcome or future course of disease in a patient; the chance of recovery.

  • Prophylaxis

  • Treatment to prevent the onset of a particular disease ('primary' prophylaxis) or recurrence of symptoms in an existing infection that has been brought under control ('secondary' prophylaxis, or maintenance therapy).

  • Protease

  • An enzyme that triggers the breakdown of proteins. HIV's protease enzyme breaks apart long strands of viral protein into the separate proteins making up viral core. The enzyme acts as new virus particles are budding off a cell membrane.

  • Protease Inhibitor

  • A drug that binds to and blocks HIV protease from working, thus preventing the production of new infectious viral particles.

  • Protosigmoidoscopy

  • An examination of the rectum and the lower part of the colon using a thin, lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope.

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