abdominal – in the area of your belly

abstract – in research, a short summary of a study (usually about 350 words)

active – an active drug is a drug that still works to reduce viral load. The virus is still sensitive to that drug.

acute infection – early infection (first few months with HIV).

adefovir – anti-viral drug used to treat hepatitis B.

adherence – taking your medicine at the right time each day and in the right way.

adverse event – an unexpected or unwanted effect during a research study. Sometimes this used to describe a side effect from a drug.

Although all side effects are adverse events, not all adverse events are side effects.

AIDS – acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

albumin – a protein made by the liver. It carries drugs, hormones and waste products through the blood and maintains fluid levels within the body. An abnormally low level of albumin is a sign of serious liver damage.

ALT, alanine aminotransferase, also called serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase; SGPT)  – a key liver enzyme produced in liver cells. ALT is routinely monitored in HIVpositive people on ARVs to monitor liver toxicity from HIV drugs (or other medications). Increased ALT signals liver injury, but does not indicate how serious liver damage is.

Information on liver tests.

amino acids – amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. DNA codes for amino acids. Three nucleotides (segments of the genetic code) make one amino acid. Amino acids are critical to life, and have many functions in the way your body works.

amniocentesis – test in which cells around a fetus are removed and examined to detect genetic abnormalities

anaemia – shortage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells

antepartum refers to the time during pregnancy before a baby is born. Antepartum refers to the mother.

See: intrapartum and postpartum.

anti-fungal – drug used to treat fungus infections.

antibiotic – drug used to treat bacterial infections. Sometimes they work against other kinds of infection.

antibody – a protein that is part of your immune system that is produced to fight an infection. Each antibody recognises a specific antigen.

antigen – a protein found on the surface of a virus or bacteria. It is recognised by the immune system which then generates antibodies.

antioxidant – a substance that reduces oxidative damage (damage due to oxygen) such as that caused by ‘free radicals’

antiretrovirals – the common name for any HIV drugs. HIV is a retrovirus, so drugs to fight HIV are called antiretrovirals. Also abbreviated to ARVs.