HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

At Risk Groups: These were initially defined as men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and people who have received treatment with blood products. However, this has changed over the years with the increase in transmission through heterosexual intercourse. The group most at risk in sub-Saharan Africa is married women.

Mother-to-child transmission: The transmission of HIV from a HIV+ mother to her child either during pregnancy, labour, delivery or through breastfeeding the baby. If a woman is positive and she wishes to have a child or is already pregnant, Antiretroviral drugs can be taken throughout the pregnancy, which are highly effective in terms of the prevention of transmission from the mother to the baby. Women can also be given a single dose of Nevirapine in the early stages of labour to paralyse the virus during delivery. If a mother is HIV positive a caesarean section (an operation where the baby is delivered through the mother’s abdominal wall) may be performed in order to prevent contact between the baby and the mother’s blood and other bodily fluids. If the mother is already taking ARVs, then there would be no need for a caesarean section because the risk of HIV transmission would be very low. If the mother has a very high level of HIV in her blood, a caesarean section may be recommended, however it may not be advisable if she is in resource poor settings.

Opportunistic infections: An infection that occurs due to a weakened immune system such as Tuberculosis, Thrush or Herpes. These opportunistic infections can lead to death in a person who is HIV positive, rather than the HIV virus itself. A person living with HIV who shows signs of having more than 20 different opportunistic infections is considered to have developed ‘full blown’ AIDS.

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART): The average ART consists of a combination of three different ARVs (see definition below) to suppress the HIV virus.

Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs): These drugs are designed to reduce the viral load in an infected person. This slows down the virus’s attack on the immune system.

Dry sex: The use of herbs to dry out a woman’s vagina. This causes more friction during penetration and can cause tearing in the woman’s vagina or vaginal wall, thus leaving her more susceptible to infection.

Concurrent sexual partners: Ongoing sexual relationships with a number of people at the same time. These relationships may last for short or long periods of time – such as in polygamous marriages (see definition below).

Polygamy: The practice of having more than one spouse at a time.

Levirate: A traditional practice in Zambia where if a woman’s husband dies, his brother or male relative can take her as a wife.

Sororate: The concurrent (see above) marriage of a man to his wife and her sister.

Sexual cleansing: A traditional practice where the widow of a man is forced to have sexual intercourse with his male relative in order to ‘cleanse’ her of his ghost and any illnesses he may have had. This appears to be declining in Zambia due to the high risk of HIV transmission.

Patrilineal: The passing on of property, land, etc. through the male side of the family – from a father to his son or brother and so on.

Feminisation of HIV and AIDS: This refers to a number of things. Firstly, it refers to the continually increasing number of women and girls who are infected with the disease. It also refers to the fact that women and girls are becoming infected and dying at much younger ages. And finally, it refers to the negative overall impact that the disease has on the lives of women and girls, whether they themselves are infected or affected.

Sub-Saharan Africa: This is defined as the countries located south of the Sahara. They include Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Transactional sex: Exchanging sex for goods or services.

Human Rights Treaties: Agreements made under international law (in this case human rights law) entered into for the protection of human rights.

Infected and affected: If you have been diagnosed as HIV positive, then you are infected. Being affected doesn’t necessarily mean being HIV positive, but that your life has been changed or influenced by the fact that you or a family member or friend etc has become infected.

High HIV prevalence rates: High numbers of people living with HIV in a certain area (usually a country).

Human Development Index: A measure of human development using three equally weighted human dimensions of human development – life expectancy at birth, adult literacy rates and purchasing power.

Viral load: The measurement of the severity of a viral infection, in this case the amount of HIV found in your blood.