Glossary of HIV/AIDS Related Terms
(Starting with "P")
Glossary of HIV/AIDS Related Terms, 5th Edition, AIDSinfo,
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AIDS Clinical Trials Group
Blood Mononuclear Cell
See: People Living With AIDS
See: Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy
See: Purified Protein Derivative
Also known as prescribing information or product label.
A document prepared by the manufacturer of a drug and
approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to
describe approved uses, dosages, contraindications,
and potential side effects of the drug. This information
is inserted inside each manufactured drug bottle and
attached to any promotional or labeling materials.
Medical care that helps to alleviate symptoms of chronic
illnesses without offering a cure. Palliative care offers
therapies to comfort and support patients with terminal
A gland located near the stomach that secretes digestive
fluids that help to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
The pancreas also secretes the hormones insulin and
glucagon, which help to stabilize blood sugar.
Inflammation of the pancreas that can cause severe pain.
Laboratory tests that indicate pancreatitis include
increased blood levels of triglycerides and the pancreatic
See Also: Pancreas
A lower than normal number of all types of blood cells,
including red and white blood cells and platelets.
An outbreak of an infectious disease, such as HIV, that
affects people or animals over an extensive geographical
area. Also known as a global epidemic.
See Also: Epidemic
A method for the early detection of cancer and other
abnormalities of the female genital tract. A Pap smear
is done by placing a speculum in the vagina, locating
the cervix, and then scraping a thin layer of cells
from the cervix. The cells are placed on a slide, sent
to a laboratory, and analyzed for abnormalities. HIV-infected
women often have abnormal results of Pap smear tests,
usually as a result of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
See Also: Human
A tumor that grows on the skin, such as a wart or polyp.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus that causes
papillomas, including genital warts.
See Also: Human
An organism that lives and feeds on or within another
living organism and causes some degree of harm. Immunocompromised
people, such as those infected with HIV, are more likely
to develop parasitic infections such as Pneumocystis
jiroveci pneumonia (PCP) and toxoplasmosis.
Any route into the body other than through the digestive
system. For example, through the veins (intravenous),
into the muscles (intramuscular), or through the skin
Abnormal sensations such as burning, tingling, or a
"pins-and-needles" feeling that occur without
external stimulation. Paresthesia can occur as a symptom
of peripheral neuropathy or as a side effect of certain
See Also: Peripheral Neuropathy
The body's ability to prevent or fight a specific infection
after receiving antibodies from another person. The
most common example of passive immunity is when an infant
receives the mother's antibodies by consuming her breast
See Also: Antibody
The transfer of antibodies from one person to another
to help the recipient fight infection. An example of
passive immunotherapy is the use of plasma donated by
healthy HIV-infected people who have high CD4 counts
and high levels of anti-HIV antibodies. The plasma is
administered to people with AIDS who have lost CD4 cells
and can no longer make their own antibodies. Passive
immunotherapy has been used with limited success in
treating advanced HIV disease in adults, but it is still
sometimes used in HIV-infected children.
See Also: Passive Immunity
General term for any disease-causing organism.
General term for the origin and development of disease.
Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group (PACTG)
A large clinical trials network that evaluates treatments
for HIV-infected children and adolescents and that develops
new therapeutic approaches for preventing mother-to-child
transmission (MTCT) of HIV.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
An infection of the upper female genital tract affecting
the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It is usually
caused by the bacteria responsible for two common sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs), gonorrhea and chlamydia.
If left untreated, PID can cause severe pain, tubal
pregnancy, and infertility. Severe cases may even spread
to the liver and kidneys, causing dangerous internal
bleeding and death.
People Living With AIDS (PLWA)
Infants, children, adolescents, and adults infected
A short chain of amino acids that are chemically linked
to one another. Longer chains of amino acids are referred
to as polypeptides.
See Also: Polypeptide
Around the anus.
The time period spanning shortly before and after birth.
The passage of HIV from an HIV-infected mother to her
infant. The infant may become infected while in the
womb, during labor and delivery, or through breastfeeding.
Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cell (PBMC)
A general term for white blood cells containing one
nucleus, particularly lymphocytes and macrophages.
See Also: Lymphocyte
Condition characterized by sensory loss, pain, muscle
weakness, and wasting of muscle in the hands, legs,
or feet. It may start with burning or tingling sensations
or numbness in the toes and fingers. In severe cases,
paralysis may occur. Peripheral neuropathy may result
from HIV infection itself or may be a side effect of
certain anti-HIV drugs, particularly NRTIs.
See Also: Neuropathy
Persistent Generalized Lymphadenopathy (PGL)
Chronic and persistent swollen lymph nodes in at least
two areas of the body for at least three months. PGL
occurs in people with persistent bacterial, viral, or
fungal infections, and in individuals with weakened
immune systems, including people with HIV.
The interaction of a drug with the body over a period
of time. General pharmacokinetic processes are absorption,
distribution, metabolism, and excretion. These processes
are usually measured through blood and urine samples.
The branch of medical science that studies the chemistry,
effects, and uses of drugs. Pharmacology includes the
study of a drug's therapeutic value, toxicology, and
interaction with the body (pharmacokinetics).
See Also: Pharmacokinetics
Phase I Trials
Initial clinical studies of new drugs or other therapies
in small groups of healthy volunteers, usually 20 to
80 people. This phase of clinical trial determines initial
drug safety and side effects.
Phase II Trials
Early clinical studies that evaluate the safety and
effectiveness of new drugs or other therapies. Phase
II trials also help determine short-term side effects
and risks associated with new drugs. This trial phase
usually recruits no more than 100 people affected with
the disease or condition under study.
Phase III Trials
Clinical studies that compare the effectiveness of new
drugs to standard therapies for the disease or condition
in question. This trial phase recruits a large population
of people with the disease or condition under study,
ranging from several hundred to several thousand volunteers.
The results of these trials are used to evaluate the
overall risks and benefits of the drug and provide the
information needed for the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) to consider approving the drug.
Phase IV Trials
Clinical studies that occur after a drug has been approved
by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine
long-term safety and effectiveness. They are sometimes
referred to as "post-marketing studies." This
trial phase recruits the largest population of patients
to gain additional information about the drug's risks,
benefits, and optimal use.
A laboratory test that determines by direct experiment
whether a particular strain of HIV is resistant to anti-HIV
drugs. This is different from a genotypic assay, which
uses an indirect method to find out if a particular
strain of HIV has specific genetic mutations that are
associated with drug resistance.
See Also: Resistance
Increased sensitivity of skin to sunlight or ultraviolet
light. Photosensitivity commonly causes reddening and
blistering of the skin and in time increases a person's
risk of skin cancer. Photosensitivity may occur as a
side effect of some drugs or as a result of HIV infection.
The number and schedule of pills taken each day in a
particular anti-HIV drug regimen. A high pill burden
may lead to decreased treatment adherence because of
the difficulty of taking a large number of pills properly.
See Also: Adherence
Sometimes called a "sugar pill." A pill or
other treatment that looks like the treatment being
tested in a clinical trial but does not actually contain
the active ingredient. Placebos are used in some clinical
trials to control for what is called the "placebo
effect": an effect that is caused by the power
of suggestion alone. The effects of the placebo are
then compared to the effects of the active ingredient
to determine if the ingredient is truly effective.
See Also: Placebo Effect
A positive or negative response to an inactive treatment
(placebo) caused by a patient's or researcher's expectations
that a particular treatment will have an effect.
See Also: Placebo
A study that identifies the true effect of a treatment
by comparing results in patients taking the actual treatment
to those in patients taking an inactive look-alike,
or placebo, treatment.
See Also: Placebo
The clear, liquid part of the blood in which red blood
cells, white blood cells, and platelets are suspended.
Plasma contains nutrients, wastes, salts, gases, and
A type of cell in the blood responsible for clotting.
When blood vessels are damaged, platelets help to form
a plug that prevents the loss of blood.
A type of fungus that can cause severe pneumonia in
humans, particularly in people with weakened immune
systems and especially common in people with AIDS. P.
jiroveci is related to P. carinii, the species for which
PCP (pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) is named.
See Also: Pneumocystis
Pneumocystis Jiroveci Pneumonia (PCP)
A lung infection caused by Pneumocystis jiroveci, a
fungus related to Pneumocystis carinii (the species
for which PCP was originally named). PCP occurs in people
with weakened immune systems, including people with
HIV. It is considered an AIDS-defining condition in
HIV-infected individuals. The first signs of infection
are difficulty breathing, high fever, and dry cough.
See Also: Pneumocystis Jiroveci
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
A laboratory technique that rapidly replicates tiny
amounts of DNA so that it can be detected and measured.
See Also: Reverse
Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction
Inflammation of several nerves at the same time.
A long chain of amino acids that are chemically linked
to one another. Shorter chains of amino acids are referred
to as peptides.
See Also: Amino
A vaccine that combines multiple antigens. This type
of vaccine may produce a stronger immune response or
may provide protection from multiple strains of an infectious
See Also: Antigen
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
Administration of anti-HIV drugs within 72 hours of
a high-risk exposure, including unprotected sex, needle
sharing, or occupational needle stick injury, to help
prevent development of HIV infection.
See Also: Prophylaxis
The time period following birth (refers to the newborn).
See Also: Postpartum
The time period after childbirth (refers to the mother).
See Also: Postnatal
A specific type of health care recommended by the American
College of Obstetrics and Gynecology for all women of
childbearing age prior to pregnancy. Its purpose is
to identify risks of pregnancy and childbirth for both
mother and child, to provide education and counseling
targeted to a woman's individual needs, and to treat
or stabilize medical conditions prior to pregnancy in
order to optimize the mother's and infant's health.
Refers to the preliminary testing of investigational
drugs in laboratory animals that occurs before human
testing may begin.
Period of time spanning conception to the begining of
See: Package Insert
The number of people in a population affected with a
particular disease or condition at a given time. Prevalence
can be thought of as a snapshot of all existing cases
of a disease or condition at a specified time.
See Also: Incidence
Preventive HIV Vaccine
A vaccine designed to prevent HIV infection in people
who are HIV negative. Preventive HIV vaccines are not
designed to treat those already infected with HIV.
See Also: Therapeutic
Primary HIV Infection
Strains of HIV taken from an infected individual, as
opposed to strains grown in the laboratory.
Inflammation of the lining of the rectum.
Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML)
A rare brain and spinal cord disease caused by a virus
and usually seen only in immunocompromised individuals,
such as those with HIV. Symptoms vary, but include loss
of muscle control, paralysis, blindness, speech problems,
and an altered mental state. This disease often progresses
rapidly and may be fatal. PML is considered an AIDS-defining
condition in people with HIV.
Treatment to prevent the onset of a particular disease
or to prevent recurrence of symptoms of an existing
infection that has been brought under control.
An enzyme that breaks down long polypeptides into smaller
protein units. HIV's protease enzyme cuts long chains
of HIV polypeptide into the smaller, active proteins
used in HIV replication.
See Also: Polypeptide
Protease Inhibitors (PIs)
A class of anti-HIV drug that prevents replication of
HIV by disabling HIV protease. Without HIV protease,
the virus cannot make more copies of itself.
See Also: Protease
An anti-HIV drug regimen that does not include a PI.
See Also: Protease
Highly complex biological molecules consisting of specific
combinations of amino acids linked together by chemical
bonds. Proteins are required for the structure, function,
and regulation of the body's cells, tissues, and organs,
and each protein has unique functions. Examples of proteins
are enzymes, cytokines, antibodies, and the major components
of hair, skin, and muscle.
See Also: Peptide
The detailed plan for conducting an experiment such
as a clinical trial. A clinical trial protocol is a
lengthy document describing the trial's rationale, purpose,
information about the drug or vaccine under study, participant
inclusion/exclusion criteria, study endpoints, and details
of the trial design.
See Also: Clinical
Large, diverse group of unicellular (one-celled) animals.
Some protozoa cause diseases in people with weakened
immune systems, including people with HIV or AIDS. Protozoa
are responsible for some of the AIDS-defining opportunistic
infections, notably toxoplasmosis and cryptosporidiosis.
A DNA version of HIV's genetic material that has been
integrated into the host cell's own DNA.
See Also: Integration
An intense itching sensation that produces the urge
to rub or scratch the skin for relief.
Database and search engine that provides access to citations
for more than 11 million biomedical articles dating
back to the 1950s. The database is maintained by the
National Library of Medicine (NLM). PubMed includes
links to free full-text articles, where they are available,
and also connects users with related resources. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez
Public Health Service (PHS)
An office within the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (DHHS). The Public Health Service is composed
of several agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which
oversee different aspects of health care in the United
States. Guidelines for the management of various diseases,
including HIV infection, are released through the PHS.
Pertaining to the lungs.
Purified Protein Derivative (PPD)
A substance used in the tuburculin skin test to determine
if a person has been exposed to Mycobacterium tuberculosis,
the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). PPD is
usually injected just below the skin. A hard red bump
or a swollen area at the injection site indicates that
the person was exposed to the bacterium. Additional
tests are required to determine if the person has active
See Also: Tuberculin
An HIV protein that makes up the virus core that surrounds
HIV's genetic material.
See Also: Core
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