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Guide to Hepatitis C for People Living With HIV

Testing, Coinfection, Treatment and Support

August 2007


Acute infection: with hepatitis C, this refers to the first six months after infection.

Albumin: a protein made by the liver that carries drugs, hormones, and waste through the bloodstream, and helps maintain fluid levels within the body. Abnormally low levels of albumin can signal serious liver damage.

ALP: alkaline phosphatase; a liver enzyme also found in tissues throughout the body. ALP should be monitored regularly during HIV treatment and in persons with hepatitis C.

ALT: alanine transaminase, also called serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase, or SGPT; a key liver enzyme produced in liver cells. ALT should be monitored regularly during HIV treatment and in persons with hepatitis C.

Antioxidant: a substance that reduces oxidative damage (damage due to oxygen), such as that caused by free radicals (see definition below).

ART: antiretroviral therapy; a combination of drugs from different families used to treat HIV.

Ascites: an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen; a sign of serious liver damage in people with hepatitis C.

AST: aspartate aminotransferase, also called serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase, or SGOT; an enzyme made in many places throughout the body (heart, intestines, muscle). AST should be monitored regularly during HIV treatment and in persons with hepatitis C.

Bilirubin: a yellowish byproduct from the breakdown of old red blood cells; jaundice occurs if certain drugs or liver or bile duct damage cause bilirubin to build up in the bloodstream.

Biopsy: taking a small sample of body tissue for examination and testing in the laboratory.

Brain fog: a term used to describe confusion and forgetfulness associated with chronic hepatitis C.

Chronic infection: a persistent condition; with hepatitis C, this means any time following the acute phase.

Cirrhosis: severe scarring of the liver that makes it difficult for the liver to carry out its functions (see fibrosis).

Coinfection: infection with more than one virus.

Compensated cirrhosis: a scarred liver that is still able to function.

Cryoglobulinemia: increased blood levels of a protein that can cause inflamed blood vessels and thicken blood.

Decompensated cirrhosis: when liver scarring prevents the liver from functioning.

Diabetes: an illness related to not being able to regulate sugar in the blood.

Encephalopathy: degenerative brain function or disease.

Enzyme: a protein in the body that speeds up other chemical reactions.

ETR: end-of-treatment response; having an undetectable HCV viral load at the end of HCV treatment (see SVR).

EVR: early virological response; the drop in HCV viral load after 12 weeks of HCV treatment.

Fibrosis: mild-to-moderate scarring of the liver (see cirrhosis).

FibroTest: a test that uses results from blood tests to predict liver damage; this test may become an alternative option to liver biopsy for some patients.

FibroScan: a non-invasive ultrasound scan that measures the elasticity or stiffness of the liver.

Free radical: a chemical produced after a molecular reaction, often containing oxygen, that has one "free" (unpaired) electron on its outer surface. This makes it able to react to and damage other cells. Free radicals may perhaps increase progression of cardiovascular disease, cancers, and aging.

Fulminant liver disease: sudden, rapid disease progression related to liver failure.

Genotype: a category for different types of hepatitis C viruses; there are at least six HCV genotypes. Some are easier to treat than others.

GGT: gamma glutamyl transferase; a liver enzyme made in the bile ducts. GGT levels may be abnormally high from any type of liver disease, heavy drinking, or some medications.

Grade/Grading: The grade of hepatitis infection refers to the amount of liver inflammation found by a biopsy. It is usually measured on the Ishak scale from 1 to 18, where 0 is none and 18 is the maximum.

Hepatocellular carcinoma: liver cancer (HCC).

Interferon: a chemical messenger produced by the human body; it can also be man-made. Interferon stimulates the immune system to fight viruses.

Jaundice: a common symptom of hepatitis where increased levels of bilirubin lead to a yellowing of the skin or eyes.

Lactic acidosis: abnormal build-up of lactate in the blood, caused by cellular damage associated with the use of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors; if untreated, can be fatal.

Lipoatrophy: fat loss, especially in the arms, legs, cheeks, and buttocks.

Lipodystrophy: abnormal fat accumulation or fat loss.

Monoinfection: infection with one virus.

NRTI: Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (a type of HIV drug); also called "nucleoside."

NNRTI: Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (a type of HIV drug).

Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas; can be painful and life-threatening if not treated.

PI: Protease inhibitor (a type of HIV drug).

Portal hypertension: increased blood pressure (hypertension) in the vein carrying blood to the liver.

Ribavirin: a nucleoside analog taken in pill or capsule form as part of combination therapy for hepatitis C.

SGOT: see AST.

SGPT: see ALT.

Spontaneous viral clearance/spontaneous clearance: when the immune system is able to rid the body of the hepatitis C virus; if this occurs, it will be shortly after infection (usually within six months).

Stage/Staging: the stage of hepatitis infection refers to the amount of liver scarring (fibrosis) detected by biopsy. It is usually measured by either the METAVIR scale of 0 to 4, where 0 represents no scarring and 4 cirrhosis, or by the Knodell scale of 0 to 6, where 0 represents no scarring and 6 cirrhosis.

Steatosis: abnormal fat deposits in the liver.

SVR: sustained virological response; having a negative HCV viral load test six months after stopping HCV treatment. The response six months after treatment determines whether treatment has been effective in terms of clearing HCV. SVR is the most important result from an HCV treatment trial.

Titer: a measure of the concentration of antibodies to a specific antigen in a person's blood.

Variceal hemorrhaging: bleeding caused by bursting veins (see Varices, below).

Varices: extended or swollen veins that can burst; a complication of cirrhosis.

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This article was provided by Treatment Action Group. It is a part of the publication Guide to Hepatitis C for People Living With HIV.