Abdomen - The part of the body between the chest and the legs that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, reproductive organs, and other organs.
Abscess – A local collection of pus.
Abstinence – Not having sex.
Adolescence – The years between puberty and adulthood (usually the teenage years).
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) - The late stage of the illness caused by infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Antibiotic - A substance kills that or prevents the growth of micro-organisms. Antibiotics are used to treat infection.
Antibody – Antibodies are proteins in the blood made by the immune system to help the body fight disease. Vaccines stimulate the body to make antibodies to specific infectious agents eg hepatitis B.
Antigen - A foreign substance, such as a fragment of a virus or bacteria, that stimulates the immune system to make antibodies.
Anus (back passage) – The opening at the end of the bowel though which faeces (stools, poos) are passed.
Asymptomatic – Having no signs or symptoms of disease or illness.
Bacterial STIs – STIs caused by bacteria including syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. These infections respond effectively to correct antibiotic treatment.
Bacterial Vaginosis - A common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge among women of child bearing age. It is caused by infection with certain bacteria but is not considered to be an STI. There may be a fishy smell and a grey watery discharge.
Barrier method – A method of contraception (prevention of pregnancy) that uses a physical barrier preventing sperm from travelling up into the uterus (womb). Includes condoms and diaphragms.
BBV – Blood borne virus. A virus present in the blood which can be transmitted by blood to blood contact between individuals. Transmission can occur in a variety of ways including sharing needles and syringes, contamination of equipment used in tattooing or body piercing, accidents or injuries and in some instances through unprotected sex.
B-Cell (B-Lymphocyte) - A type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system. B-lymphocytes are involved in making antibodies to fight infection.
Biopsy - The removal of a sample of tissue that is then examined under a microscope to identify what is going on in that tissue.
Bladder - The hollow organ that stores urine.
Candida - A group of yeasts that cause candidiasis (thrush).
Candidiasis (thrush) - An infection due to candida. Candidiasis commonly occurs in the mouth and vagina. It can occur in other parts of the body, especially if the immune system is low.
Cautery - The use of heat, electricity or chemicals to destroy abnormal tissue. Is also called diathermy. It can be used to treat genital warts.
CD4 cell - A type of T-cell involved in protecting against viral, fungal and protozoal infections.
CD4 cell count – A blood test that is used to assess the state of the immune system. It is used to monitor HIV infection.
Cervical Dysplasia -Abnormal growth of the cells of the cervix. It is detected through a Pap smear. Women with cervical dysplasia are generally recommended to have repeat Pap smears to make sure the changes do not progress to precancerous changes.
Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia - A term to describe precancerous changes in cells of the cervix. It is detected through a Pap smear. Early detection and treatment is effective in preventing cancer.
Cervix - The lower, cylindrical end of the womb that can be felt right inside the vagina. There is a narrow canal running through it connecting the womb with the vagina.
Cervicitis – Inflammation of the cervix. Commonly caused by sexually transmissible infections.
Chancroid - A sexually transmissible infection caused by the bacteria Haemophilus ducreyi. It causes ulcers or sores on the genitals.
Chlamydia – A sexually transmissible infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. Most women and about half the men with chlamydia infection have no symptoms or signs of infection. Untreated, chlamydia can lead to infertility.
CIN - See Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia.
Cirrhosis – Progressive scarring and contraction of the liver which eventually disturbs the function of the liver. Causes of cirrhosis included chronic forms of hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Condom, male - A cover for the penis, worn during sex to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STIs.
Condom, female - A cover that lines the vagina during sex to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STIs.
Condyloma Acuminata- Warty growths on the genitals or around the anus caused by infection with certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Contraception – Prevention of pregnancy.
Cryotherapy - Treatment that freezes and destroys abnormal tissue such as genital warts.
Dermatitis – Describes many conditions in which there is inflammation of the skin.
Diaphragm – A dome-shaped rubber device used as a barrier method to prevent pregnancy.
Diathermy - The use of heat to destroy abnormal tissue. Can be used to treat genital warts.
Douching – Washing out the vagina with water, vinegar or a medicated solution. It is not an effective way to prevent pregnancy or STI.
Dysmenorrhoea – The medical term used to describe painful periods.
Dyspareunia - The medical term used to describe difficult or painful sex.
Dysplasia - Abnormal changes or growth of cells and tissues. See Cervical Dysplasia.
Dysuria - Painful or difficult urination. Dysuria may be due to infection in the bladder or an STI.
Ectopic – The term ectopic means out of place. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo (fertilised egg) implants outside the uterus. Such pregnancies cannot grow as a normal pregnancy and often have to be removed by an operation.
Efficacy – A term used to describe the ability of a drug to do what it is intended to do.
Ejaculation – Expulsion of semen from the penis.
ELISA (Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) - A method for testing blood for the presence of antibodies to specific infections. ELISA is used to detect the presence of HIV antibodies in the blood. A positive ELISA test for HIV must be confirmed by another test called a Western Blot.
Emergency contraception – Treatment that can be given after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. Includes "morning after pill".
Endometrium - The lining of the uterus.
Fallopian tubes - Tubes on each side of the uterus. When the ovary releases an egg it must travel through the fallopian tube to reach the womb. Fallopian tubes can become scarred and blocked by some STIs including chlamydia and gonorrhoea. This can cause infertility (being unable to become pregnant).
Fibroids – Abnormal muscular growths in the wall of the womb (uterus).
Genital herpes – Infection of the genital area by herpes simplex virus resulting in outbreaks of painful ulcers. It is an STI.
Genitals – The external organs of reproduction in men and women.
Genital ulcers - Ulcers on the genitals. May be caused by trauma such as vigorous rubbing (these ulcers usually heal quickly) or they may be caused by STIs such as herpes and syphilis. The presence of genital ulcers may increase the risk of the spread of HIV infection.
Genital warts – Lumpy growths on the genitals or around the anus caused by Human Papillomavirus.
Gonorrhoea - An STI caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can cause discharge from the vagina or penis and discomfort passing urine. Sometimes there are no symptoms or signs. Untreated, it can lead to infertility.
Granuloma Inguinale – An STI caused by Calymmatobacterium granulomatis.
Hepatitis – A general term which describes inflammation of the liver. This can be due to infection, alcohol and other toxins. Hepatitis often causes jaundice (yellow colouring of the skin and whites of the eyes), enlarged liver, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and vomiting.
Hepatitis A - A form of hepatitis caused by the Hepatitis A virus. This virus is passed from person to person through the oral-faecal route: that means the virus can be on the hands after going to the toilet and can be passed on to others through handling food and objects. People who have anal sex are at higher risk of hepatitis A. A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent the spread of hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B - A form of hepatitis caused by the Hepatitis B virus. The hepatitis B virus is found in blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. It is spread from person to person through sexual contact, sharing contaminated drug needles, blood transfusions, and piercing the skin with contaminated instruments. Hepatitis B may damage the liver, putting people at risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent the spread of hepatitis B. From May 2000, this vaccine is recommended and made available with other vaccines given to infants.
Hepatitis C – Hepatitis C is one of the most serious types of hepatitis, and is transmitted by blood to blood contact. Currently in Australia, hepatitis C is most often transmitted through blood to blood contact caused by sharing or re-using injection equipment. However, hepatitis C can be transmitted in other ways such as via blood transfusion and blood products. In Australia, all donated blood and blood products are tested. Unsterile tattooing and body piercing practices can also pass on the virus. Mother to child transmission during pregnancy or birth is low risk. Transmission has also occurred in health care settings through unsterile medical injections and other medical procedures in overseas countries. No vaccine is currently available, however there is treatment available. The effectiveness of the treatment depends on a number of factors including the type of virus and other lifestyle factors.
Herpes – Infection with herpes simplex virus including cold sores of the mouth and genital herpes.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) – HIV is the virus that causes HIV infection and AIDS. HIV can be passed from person to person through blood, semen and vaginal secretions. HIV can also be passed from person to person through sharing intravenous drug equipment. Women with HIV infection can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Some people contracted the virus through blood products before a successful screening process was begun in 1985. There is no evidence that HIV can spread through other body fluids such as saliva, faeces, urine, tears and sweat. At present, there is no way to get rid of the virus once a person is infected. Special drugs can slow the damage that HIV causes to the immune system.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – A group of wart viruses which can be passed from person to person by direct skin contact. Some type of HPV infect the genital area and are passed from person to person during sex. Many infected people never develop any sign of infection. Some people develop genital warts: these are flat or fleshy growths in the genital area or around the anus. Some types of HPV cause changes in the cervix that can be detected on a Pap smear. Some changes caused by HPV can progress to cervical cancer. Women with HPV should have regular Pap smears. Early precancerous changes can be treated to prevent cancer.
Immune deficiency - A breakdown in the function of the immune system. This makes people susceptible to certain diseases that they would be less likely to contract with a healthy immune system.
Immune system - The body's natural defences against infections and cancers.
Infertility – Being unable to have children. This term is usually not used until a couple have been trying to become pregnant for 12 months and have been unsuccessful.
Informed consent – Having enough information and understanding to make a decision about your own health care. This may apply to tests, treatment, or other aspects of health care.
Interferon - A type of treatment that can improve the body's natural response to disease. It is used to treat some chronic forms of hepatitis infections.
Intrauterine device (IUD) – A small device inserted into the womb (uterus) to prevent pregnancy.
Intravenous (IV) - Injected directly into a vein.
Lesion - A very general term used to describe some abnormality on the surface of the body. This could include lumps, sores, ulcers.
LGV – Lymphogranuloma Venereum.
Lubricant - A substance used to make surfaces slippery. A vaginal lubricant may be helpful for women who feel pain during intercourse because of vaginal dryness. If using a lubricant with latex condoms, use one that is water-based (such as Wet Stuff or KY jelly), as oil can weaken the latex.
Lymph node (lymph gland) - Small bean-shaped organs found in the neck, groins, armpits and other parts of the body which are part of the immune system. They can become enlarged due to infection and cancer.
Lymphadenopathy - Swelling or enlargement of the lymph nodes due to infection or cancer.
Lymphocyte - White blood cells that are part of the immune system.
Menarche - The time in a young woman's life when she has her first menstrual period.
Menopause ("change of life") - The time in a women's life when her menstrual periods stop.
Menstruation ("menstrual period") - The periodic discharge of bloody fluid from the womb occurring at more or less regular intervals during the life of a woman from age of puberty to menopause.
Molluscum Contagiosum - A skin infection caused by a pox virus infection.
Morning after pill – A method of preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex. Works by preventing the egg from being released by the ovary or by preventing a fertilised egg planting into the wall of the uterus.
NSP – Needle and syringe program.
Non-Specific Urethritis (NSU) – Inflammation of the urethra, usually caused by an STI.
Opportunistic Infections (OI) - Infections that occur in persons with weak immune systems due to AIDS, cancer or immunosuppressive drugs.
Ovaries - The pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs are formed. The ovaries are located in the lower abdomen, one on each side of the uterus.
Ovulation – The release of an egg from the ovary during the female menstrual cycle.
Pap Smear - A test of cells collected from the cervix to look for early changes of cancer and other changes. Sexually active women are recommended to have a regular Pap smear every two years.
Papillomavirus – See HPV.
PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test - A laboratory method that is used to detect signs of infection. Infections such as chlamydia can be detected by this method.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – Inflammation of the internal genital organs and surrounding structures in women, usually caused by an STI. PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and infertility.
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.
Perinatal transmission – Spread of an infection from a mother to her baby during birth.
PID see Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
Polymerase Chain Reaction - See PCR.
Precancerous - Not cancerous, but may become cancerous with time.
Premature birth – Occurring before the proper time, usually used to describe births at least 3 weeks early.
Primary HIV infection – the flu-like illness that occurs soon after infection with HIV.
Puberty – The age at which the sex organs become active and external genitals mature to adult form.
Rash – Skin breaking out in spots or patches.
Rectum - The last 15 to 20cm of the bowel. The rectum stores solid waste until it leaves the body through the anus.
Recurrence - The return of symptoms after a time without symptoms. An example of this is outbreaks of herpes after periods of time without herpes lesions.
Reproductive system - The organs involved in reproduction (that is, making babies).
Resistance - Reduction in a bacteria or viruses sensitivity to a drug used to treat it.
Risk factor - Something that increases the chance of developing a disease.
Scrotum – The bag containing testicles in men.
Semen – The fluid which is ejected during ejaculation, which normally contains sperm and seminal fluid.
Seroconversion – After infection, the body develops antibodies to that particular infection. When antibodies can be detected in the blood, seroconversion has happened. The time between becoming infected and having detectable levels of antibodies in the blood is called the window period. For HIV, the window period is up to 3 months.
Side Effects – Unwanted effects of drug treatment.
Sign – A medical term used to describe some evidence that can be found when a person is examined. For example, an enlarged liver felt when a doctor examines the abdomen could be a sign of liver disease.
Speculum - An instrument used to support the vagina walls open so that the cervix can be seen. Used to take a Pap smear.
Spermicide - An agent which kills sperm.
STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) - Any infection that is passed from person to person during sex.
Symptom - Any perceptible change in the body or its functions noticed by a person that could be evidence of disease.
Syphilis –An STI which can cause serious complications if not treated.
T-Cell (T-Lymphocyte) – A type of lymphocyte.
Thrush - See Candidiasis.
Transmission - The spread of disease from person to person.
Trichomoniasis - An STI caused by Trichomonas vaginalis.
Tumor - An abnormal mass of tissue. Can be cancerous or benign.
Ureaplasma - A genus of bacteria found in the genitals which can cause infections.
Ureters - The tubes that carry urine from each kidney to the bladder.
Urethritis - Inflammation of the urethra which can be caused by STIs.
Uterus (womb) - The small, hollow pear-shaped organ in a woman's pelvis in which pregnancy occurs.
Vaccine - A suspension of infectious agents or some part of them, given for the purpose of establishing resistance to an infectious disease. It stimulates development of specific defensive mechanisms in the body which result in more or less permanent protection against a disease.
Vagina - The muscular canal between the uterus and the outside of the body.
Vaginitis - Inflammation of the female vagina.
Viral load - The number of viral particles (usually HIV) in a sample of blood plasma. HIV viral load is used to monitor HIV infection.
Virus - A microscopic organism that cannot reproduce without a living host cell.
Wart - A raised growth on the surface of the skin or other organ. See genital warts.
Western Blot - A test for detecting the specific antibodies to HIV in a person's blood. It commonly is used to double-check positive ELISA tests. A western blot test is more reliable that the ELISA, but it is harder to do and costs more money.
Whitlow - Herpes infection on the fingers or toes.
Window period – See seroconversion.
Womb - The uterus.