Glossary of Terms



Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome


AIDS service organization


Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange


Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy


Hepatitis C virus


Human immunodeficiency virus


People who inject drugs


Men who have sex with men


Needle exchange program


Post-exposure prophylaxis, the use of antiretroviral drugs after a single high-risk event to stop HIV from making copies of itself and spreading


People living with HIV and/or AIDS


Public Health Agency of Canada


Pre-exposure prophylaxis, an antiretroviral drug that can be taken by an HIV negative person before potential HIV exposure


Sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections


Anonymous Testing

Anonymous testing means that you are tested without having to give your name or personal information and it will take two to three weeks for results

CD4 Count

A test that indicates the strength of one’s immune system and can be used to predict the risk of complications and debilitating infections. This is often used in combination with the HIV viral load test.


Having two infections at the same time. For example, a person infected with both HIV and hepatitis C or HIV and tuberculosis, has a co-infection. With co-infections, the progression of either disease can potentially be accelerated as a result of infection with the other disease.

Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy

A therapy that involves multiple anti-HIV drugs and is prescribed, before AIDS symptoms are developed, to HIV positive people.

Nominal Testing

a form of testing where your name is on all paperwork including lab requisitions. People in the lab, clinic or hospital may see your paperwork and know what you are being tested for. Staff are bound by confidentiality and will face penalties for inappropriate disclosure of your information.

Non-Nominal Testing (Confidential Testing)

This is when the clinic or doctor’s office will have your personal information on file, but on all paperwork like lab requisitions they use a code to identify you. This helps to protect your confidentiality especially if you know people who work in a lab, clinic or hospital setting or believe it is possible that someone you know could see your information. This stops someone who sees your paperwork from knowing what you are being tested for and what the results are.

Non-Reactive Test

If a rapid test is non-reactive, it means that the virus is not showing up in your blood at the time of the test.  It can take up to 3 months for HIV to show in your blood. It is a good idea to get a follow-up test to ensure the test is accurate.

Notifiable Disease

A disease that is considered to be of such importance to public health that its occurrence is required to be reported to public health authorities.

Perinatal Transmission

The transmission of HIV from an HIV-infected mother to her child either in-utero, during childbirth, or through breastfeeding.

Pilot Phase

Activity that has been organized as a trial or test period.

Point-of-Care Testing

A test for Hep C or HIV that requires a drop of blood from a finger prick with a test result available in a few minutes.

Population at Risk

The population at risk represents those persons at risk of contracting a disease.

Risk Factor

An aspect of someone’s behaviour or lifestyle, a characteristic with which a person is born, or an event that he or she has been exposed to that is known to be associated with a health-related condition. A behavioural risk factor describes a specific behaviour that carries a proven risk of a particular outcome. In research about HIV and/or AIDS, you will often see the term “HIV-related risk behaviour” to describe a behaviour that, when practised, carries a proven risk of HIV infection.

Reactive Test

If a rapid test comes back “reactive” it means that you have encountered the virus at some point, but does not guarantee you are positive. It is important to know that until you have a second test that confirms your status, you will not be able to seek treatment. Talk with your doctor, nurse or counselor and make an informed decision.


The root “sero” means the serum or the watery portion of blood. In research about HIV and/or AIDS, seroconversion refers to the development of detectable antibodies to HIV in the blood as a result of HIV infection. A person who goes from being HIV negative to HIV positive is said to have seroconverted or is a seroconverter.


Relationships where one partner is infected with HIV and the other is not.


People who are engaged in street activities (such as illicit drug use, sex work, etc) that may increase their risk for HIV and STI transmission.

Viral Load

The viral load test is a quantitative measurement of HIV nucleic acid (RNA) that provides important information that is used (in conjunction with the CD4 cell count) to monitor the status of HIV disease, guide recommendations for therapy and predict the future course of the HIV infection/disease.