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we have featured many of the terms associated with HIV and AIDS. Please
use this glossary when unfamiliar with any of the terms mentioned
in our website regarding AIDS & HIV.
antibodies - infection-fighting protein molecules
in blood or secretory fluids that tag, neutralize, and help destroy
pathogenic microorganisms such as viruses.
apoptosis - cellular suicide, also known as programmed
cell death. HIV may induce apoptosis in both infected and uninfected
immune system cells.
B cells - white blood cells of the immune system
that produce infection-fighting proteins called antibodies.
CD4+ T cells - white blood cells that orchestrate
the immune response, signaling other cells in the immune system to
perform their special functions. Also known as T helper cells, these
cells are killed or disabled during HIV infection.
CD8+ T cells - white blood cells that kill cells
infected with HIV or other viruses, or transformed by cancer. These
cells also secrete soluble molecules that may suppress HIV without
killing infected cells directly.
cytokines - proteins used for communication by cells
of the immune system. Central to the normal regulation of the immune
cytoplasm - the living matter within a cell.
dendritic cells - immune system cells with long,
tentacle-like branches. Some of these are specialized cells at the
mucosa that may bind to HIV following sexual exposure and carry the
virus from the site of infection to the lymph nodes. See also follicular
enzyme - a protein that accelerates a specific chemical
reaction without altering itself.
follicular dendritic cells (FDCs) - cells found in
the germinal centers (B cell areas) of lymphoid organs. FDCs have
thread-like tentacles that form a web-like network to trap invaders
and present them to B cells, which then make antibodies to attack
germinal centers - structures within lymphoid tissues
that contain FDCs and B cells, and in which immune responses are initiated.
gp41 - glycoprotein 41, a protein embedded in the
outer envelope of HIV. Plays a key role in HIV's infection of CD4+
T cells by facilitating the fusion of the viral and cell membranes.
gp120 - glycoprotein 120, a protein that protrudes
from the surface of HIV and binds to CD4+ T cells.
gp160 - glycoprotein 160, an HIV precursor protein
that is cleaved by the HIV protease enzyme into gp41 and gp120.
immune deficiency - the inability of the immune system
to work properly, resulting in susceptibility to disease.
immunosuppression - immune system response to foreign
invaders such as HIV is reduced
integrase - an HIV enzyme used by the virus to integrate its genetic
material into the host cell's DNA.
Kaposi's sarcoma - a type of cancer characterized
by abnormal growths of blood vessels that develop into purplish or
killer T cells - see CD8+ T cells.
lentivirus - "slow" virus characterized
by a long interval between infection and the onset of symptoms. HIV
is a lentivirus as is the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which
infects nonhuman primates.
LTR - long terminal repeat, the RNA sequences repeated
at both ends of HIV's genetic material. These regulatory switches
may help control viral transcription.
lymphoid organs - include tonsils, adenoids, lymph
nodes, spleen, and other tissues. Act as the body's filtering system,
trapping invaders and presenting them to squadrons of immune cells
that congregate there.
macrophage - a large immune system cell that devours
invading pathogens and other intruders. Stimulates other immune system
cells by presenting them with small pieces of the invaders.
microbes - microscopic living organisms, including
viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa.
monocyte - a circulating white blood cell that develops
into a macrophage when it enters tissues.
opportunistic infection - an illness caused by an
organism that usually does not cause disease in a person with a normal
immune system. People with advanced HIV infection suffer opportunistic
infections of the lungs, brain, eyes, and other organs.
organelles - small structures inside a cell, generally
bounded by membranes.
pathogenesis - the production or development of a
disease. May be influenced by many factors, including the infecting
microbe and the host's immune response.
pathogens - disease-causing organisms.
protease - an HIV enzyme used to cut large HIV proteins
into smaller ones needed for the assembly of an infectious virus particle.
provirus - DNA of a virus, such as HIV, that has
been integrated into the genes of a host cell.
replicate: process by which a virus makes copies of itself.
retrovirus - HIV and other viruses that carry their
genetic material in the form of RNA and that have the enzyme reverse
reverse transcriptase - the enzyme produced by HIV
and other retroviruses that allows them to synthesize DNA from their
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which
is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID
supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat
infectious and immune-mediated illnesses, including HIV/AIDS and other
sexually transmitted diseases, illness from potential agents of bioterrorism,
tuberculosis, malaria, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.