Sexual Health Glossary E-I

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Ejaculation -- When semen is released from the penis during orgasm.

ELISA (Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) -- The most common test used to detect the presence of HIV antibodies in the blood, which are indicative of ongoing HIV infection. One type of ELISA is the preliminary test for HIV antibodies (to detect HIV infection). A positive ELISA test result must be confirmed by another test called a Western Blot.

Endocervical curettage -- The removal of tissue from the inside of the cervix using a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette.

Endometrium -- The mucous membrane that lines the uterus.

Epithelial -- Refers to the cell linings covering most internal and external surfaces of the body and its organs.

Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) -- A member of the herpesvirus family that causes one of two kinds of mononucleosis (the other is caused by CMV). It infects the nose and throat and is contagious.

Erection -- A penis that becomes stiff and hard caused by increased blood flow.


Fallopian tubes -- Tubes on each side of the uterus through which an egg moves from the ovaries to the uterus.

Famciclovir (Famvir®) -- A prodrug for an acyclovir-like active compound. It is approved for treatment of genital herpes.

FDA -- The Food and Drug Administration, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that regulates the testing of experimental drugs and approves new medical products for marketing based on evidence of safety and efficacy.

First episode of herpes -- The body's first encounter with a particular type of herpes simplex virus, an event that often produces marked symptoms. There are two types of "first episodes." A primary first episode describes the symptoms that appear in the person who has never been infected with either herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or HSV-2 before. It's sometimes called a "true primary." A nonprimary first episode describes the symptoms that occur in the person who has been infected first with one type of HSV and then later infected with the second.

Fomite -- An object, such as a towel, bicycle seat, or an article of clothing, that is not in itself harmful, but is able to harbor pathogenic microorganisms and thus may serve as an agent of transmission for an infection. Many people think fomites can spread STDs, but there are very few documented cases of fomite transmission of any STD.

Foreskin -- Loose skin at the head of the penis. This skin is sometimes removed in a procedure called circumcision, often performed during infancy.

Fungal Infection -- A range of distinct diseases caused by fungi. Candidiasis, cryptococcosis and histoplasmosis are examples of AIDS-related fungal infections.


Ganglion -- A knot-like grouping of the nerves that serve a particular part of the body.

Gay: An adjective used to describe people whose physical and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex.

Genital Ulcer Disease (GUD) -- Ulcerative lesions on the genitals, usually caused by a sexually transmitted condition such as herpes, syphilis or chancroid. The presence of genital ulcers may increase the risk of transmitting HIV.

Genital warts -- See HPV

Genitals -- The sexual organs on the outside of the body. For a male, this is the penis and testicles. For a female, this is the vulva and clitoris.

Glans -- The head or tip of the penis.

Gonorrhea -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevtion (CDC) estimates that more than 700,000 persons in the U.S. contract gonorrhea each year. Many people who are infected show no signs of the disease. When symptoms are present, they are similar to those of chlamydia infections. Also like chlamydia, gonorrhea may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if left untreated, resulting in infertility or ectopic pregnancy. Gonorrhea can cause serious infections in infants who contract the disease from an infected mother during delivery.

Gram Stain -- A technique for preparing material for examination under a microscope. This method is used, for example, in diagnosing gonorrhea.

Granuloma Inguinale -- A sexually transmitted disease caused by Calymmatobacterium granulomatis. Causes ulcerated granulomatous lesions that occur in the inguinal regions and the genitalia.

Gynecologic oncologists -- Doctors who specialize in treating cancers of the female reproductive organs.

Gynecology -- The branch of medicine that involves care of the female reproductive system and breasts.


Helper T-cell -- See CD4 Cell.

Hepatitis -- Inflammation of the liver caused by microbes or chemicals. Often accompanied by jaundice, enlarged liver, fever, fatigue and nausea and high levels of liver enzymes in the blood.

Hepatitis A -- A self-limiting virus-induced liver disease. Hepatitis A is acquired through ingesting fecally contaminated water or food or engaging in sexual practices involving anal contact. Injection drug users who share unclean needles also are at risk. There is a vaccine available to prevent hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B - A virus-induced liver disease that infects tens of thousands of Americans each year. The hepatitis B virus is found in blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. This highly contagious virus is spread through sexual contact, sharing contaminated drug needles, blood transfusions, and piercing the skin with contaminated instruments. Many people with hepatitis B have no symptoms; others experience fever, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Hepatitis B may damage the liver, putting people at risk for cirrhosis and liver cancer. Most infections clear up by themselves within four to eight weeks. Some individuals (about 10% of the cases), however, become chronically infected. There is a vaccine available to prevent hepatitis B.

Hepatitis C -- Another virus-induced liver disease. It appears to be more common among heterosexuals and injection drug users than hepatitis B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Herpes encephalitis -- A rare, severe illness that occurs when the brain becomes infected with herpes simplex virus.

Herpes gladiatorum -- The presence of herpes lesions on the body caused by herpes simplex virus infection that is transmitted usually through the abrasion of skin in a contact sport, such as wrestling.

Herpes whitlow -- The presence of herpes lesions on the fingers or toes.

Herpes Zoster -- See both Shingles and Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV).

Herpesvirus -- Any one of eight known members of the human herpesvirus family that include: herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1), herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), varicella zoster virus (VZV), human herpes virus type 6 (HHV-6), human herpes virus type 7 (HHV-7), and human herpes virus type 8 (HHV-8). Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) can cause "cold sores" or "fever blisters" on the lips, in the mouth or around the eyes. It is less commonly the cause of genital infections. Herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2) is usually transmitted sexually and generally causes symptoms in the genital area or the anus.

Heterosexual -- Sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex.

Hir -- a gender-neutral pronoun.

HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) -- According the the CDC, at the end of 2006 an estimated 1.1 million persons in the United States were living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV/AIDS. An estimated 45,000 people get AIDS each year. HIV damages the cells in the immune system that fight off infections and diseases. As the virus gradually destroys these important cells, the immune system becomes less and less able to protect against illness. Certain life-threatening infections and cancers can then invade the body, causing serious illness and eventual death. However, HIV can live in an infected person's body for years before any signs of illness appear. The virus is spread through the blood, semen and vaginal secretions of an HIV-infected person. Both men and women can pass HIV to a sex partner. The virus can also be passed from person to person through sharing needles. HIV-infected women can pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Some people contracted the virus through blood products before a successful screening process was begun in 1985. There is no evidence that HIV can spread through other body fluids such as saliva, feces, urine, tears and sweat. Currently, there is no way to get rid of the virus once a person is infected. However, medications can slow the damage that HIV causes to the immune system.

Individuals with the genital sores resulting from certain STD infections are at increased risk of getting HIV infection during sexual contact with an HIV-infected person. HIV infection can complicate and increase the dangers of other STD infection.

HIV-1 -- Human immunodeficiency virus type 1, the retrovirus recognized as the agent that induces AIDS.

HIV-2 -- Human immunodeficiency virus type 2, a virus closely related to HIV-1 that also leads to immune suppression. HIV-2 is not as virulent as HIV-1 and is epidemic only in West Africa.

Holistic Medicine -- Various systems of health protection and restoration, both traditional and modern, that are reputedly based on the body's natural healing powers, the various ways the different tissues affect each other and the influence of the external environment.

Homophobia -- an irrational fear of or dislike of homesexuals.

Homosexual -- Sexual attraction to people of the same sex This term is outdated and considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people. The terms gay and lesbian should be used instead.

Hormone -- An active chemical substance formed in the glands and carried in the blood to other parts of the body where it stimulates or suppresses cell and tissue activity.

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) -- According to CDC, approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and another 6.2 million people become newly infected each year. At least 50% of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. HPV is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 80 different types. Certain types of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet, while others can cause genital warts on the vulva, vagina, anus, cervix, penis or scrotum. HPV and genital warts are usually spread by direct, skin-to-skin contact during sex. Other types of HPV (not the types that cause genital warts) are strongly linked to cervical cancer. Yearly Pap tests are recommended to detect the abnormal cell growth caused by HPV that may progress to cervical cancer. If detected in time, the progression of cervical HPV can be stopped, and even cervical cancer can usually be treated successfully.

HSV -- Abbreviation for herpes simplex virus. HSV-1 denotes herpes simplex type 1, the usual cause of herpes around the mouth or face ("cold sores," "fever blisters"); HSV-2 denotes herpes simplex type 2, the usual cause of recurrent genital herpes.

Human Papillomavirus -- See HPV.

Hysterectomy -- An operation in which the uterus and cervix are removed.


Immune Deficiency -- A breakdown or inability of certain parts of the immune system to function, thus making a person susceptible to certain diseases that they would have not contracted with a healthy immune system. Immune deficiencies may be temporary or permanent and be triggered by genetic mutation, therapy with immune-suppressive drugs (as during organ transplants) or an infection such as HIV.

Immune System -- The body's complicated natural defense against disruption caused by invading microbes and cancers.

Immunity -- Protection against disease. Immunity can be achieved for many infections--such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and some strains of HPV--through vaccination.

Immunocompetent -- Refers to an immune system capable of developing a normal protective response when confronted with invading microbes or cancer.

Immunocompromised -- Refers to an immune system in which the response to infections and tumors is subnormal.

Immunosuppression -- Weakening of the immune response that occurs with HIV infection as well as with some antiviral or anticancer treatments.

Immunotherapy -- Treatment aimed at reconstituting an impaired immune system. Examples of experimental immunotherapies for AIDS include passive hyperimmune therapy (PHT), IL-2 and therapeutic vaccines.

Impotence -- The inability to attain and/or maintain an erection.

Inflammation -- The body's response to tissue injury or infection which occurs in the affected tissues and adjacent blood vessels. Signs of inflammation are redness, swelling, pain, and sometimes loss of function. Not all of these signs are necessarily present in any given case.

Informed Consent -- The ability of people receiving experimental therapies to make competent decisions about their medical care. Patients are provided with an "informed consent form," which indicates the potential risks, benefits and alternatives to the therapy in question. If a clinical trial is involved, the trial protocol also is outlined, especially what participants will experience. After reading the informed consent form, individuals sign it to indicate that they understand its contents and agree to proceed with therapy under the conditions it outlines.

Intravenous (IV) -- Injected directly into a vein.

Invasive Cervical Cancer -- Cancer that has spread from the surface of the cervix to tissue deeper in the cervix or to other parts of the body.

In Vitro -- Refers to laboratory experiments conducted in cell cultures grown in an artificial environment, for example in a test tube or culture plate.

In Vivo -- Refers to studies conducted within humans or animals, in a living, natural environment.