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Glossary*

AIDS
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is a sexually transmitted disease caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). AIDS is a disease characterized by a loss of immune function, usually over several years, which means the HIV-infected person can transmit HIV to sexual partners before he or she feels ill. In addition to transmission between sexual partners, HIV may be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn child, from a mother to her newborn infant through breastmilk, and between individuals who share needles when injecting drugs. Known effective methods of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS include abstinence, maintaining a mutually monogamous relationship (each person in a couple has only the other person as a sexual partner), and using condoms with every act of intercourse.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial vaginosis is a bacterial infection of the vagina that is characterized by discharge and an unpleasant odor. Many women who think they have a yeast infection (yeast vaginitis caused by Candida), in fact have bacterial vaginosis. BV is a highly prevalent and frequently recurring infection that can increase a woman's risk for HIV infection. Many women who douche to eliminate vaginal odor due to BV and may be making their condition worse.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. See AIDS.

Human papilloma virus (HPV)
Human papilloma virus causes genital warts, also called condyloma, a common condition in sexually active women. The warts caused by HPV may be external, on the labia or skin surrounding the vagina, or internal, inside on the surface of the vagina or cervix. Some types of HPV (but not all) are linked to cervical cancer. Not every woman with HPV is at high risk for cervical cancer, but of the women who get cervical cancer, 95% are infected with certain strains of HPV.

Microbicide
A microbicide is a substance such as a gel, cream, sponge, suppository or film that can significantly reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papilloma virus (HPV), and others (see STDs below). Microbicides are intended to be used vaginally or rectally and may provide protection against STDs for several hours, or even for days. There are microbicides under development that are contraceptive and some which are non-contraceptive. They are woman-controlled methods of STD protection, and therefore do not rely on a partner's use of a condom. For more information see Microbicide Development.

A microbicide may work by killing STD pathogens, blocking infections by creating a barrier between the pathogen and the reproductive tract (vagina and cervix) or rectum, and/or preventing virus from replicating once it has entered the body.

Pathogen
Pathogens are organisms, such as bacteria or viruses, which causes disease. Pathogens are in contrast to normal flora, which are organisms that are found within the body that do not cause disease.

Prophylactic contraception
Prophylactic contraception is a method of birth control that also protects a woman from sexually transmitted diseases. See also microbicide, (i.e. a contraceptive microbicide).

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)
Sexually transmitted diseases are infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact. This may include, but is not limited to, having intercourse. In some cases any intimate skin-to-skin contact is sufficient for transmission of the infection to occur. Some people refer to STDs as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Examples of sexually transmitted diseases include HIV, the virus that causes AIDS; chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, human papilloma virus (HPV), and herpes virus (HSV).

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
See sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Spermicide
A spermicide is a compound or product that kills sperm and therefore may prevent pregnancy when used alone or in combination with a condom or diaphragm.

* The discussion of the topics presented here is for reference only and should not be used in place of a discussion with your doctor or clinician. While the site is intended to be accurate, it is not complete and is not to be taken as medical advice.

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Last updated 11/24/08  |  Legal Information  |  Copyright ReProtect Inc., 2003-2008