Aboriginal Health Worker
An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who has undertaken a training program at a recognised training institution to act as a health worker for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. The precise role of Aboriginal health workers is still evolving and varies considerably both within WA and between the states.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
The stage in HIV infection when the immune system is severely depleted and opportunistic infections and cancers develop.
Amies transport medium: a semisolid solution of buffers and nutrients designed to preserve the viability of bacteria during transport to the testing laboratory.
A potentially fatal allergic reaction to foreign protein or other substances.
Behcet's syndrome
A chronic inflammatory disorder of unknown aetiology with recurrent ulceration of the oral and pharyngeal mucous membranes and the genital skin.
Bimanual pelvic examination
An examination technique that uses both hands, one for feeling the cervix through the vagina, and the other for feeling the body of the uterus through the lower abdominal wall. This provides considerable information about the state of the uterus, adnexae and the pelvic cavity.
The ulcer of primary syphilis.
Clue cells
Vaginal epithelial cells covered in bacteria and seen on a Gram stain of a high vaginal swab.
Communicable Disease Control Directorate (CDCD)
That section of the Department of Health (Western Australia) with responsibility for communicable diseases including STIs/HIV.
A thin latex rubber sheath worn over the penis for disease prevention or contraception.
Condylomata lata
Wart-like lesions seen in second stage syphilis, often in the perianal region and other warm moist areas.
An inflammation of the conjunctiva or lining of the eye usually accompanied by purulent discharge.
A person who has had sex with, shared injecting equipment with or has had some other high-risk exposure to the index case.
Contact tracing
The process of identifying contacts of the index case so that they can also be given appropriate testing, counselling and treatment.
Interviewing a patient to give advice and support. For patients with STIs, counselling involves education about risk behaviour, disease and treatment, and helping patients to cope with the psychosocial implications of their infection.
A wire brush on a short stick for taking specimens from the cervix.
Diplococcus is the form of the organism causing gonorrhoea. It is a kidney shaped bacterium that occurs in pairs. This organism stains red with the Gram stain and hence is referred to as Gram-negative.
Pain on passing urine.
Ectopic pregnancy
A pregnancy occurring outside the uterus, i.e. in the fallopian tube.
Extension of columnar epithelium onto the vaginal surface of the cervix.
Enzyme immunoassay (EIA)
A test for an antigen or antibody that uses a colour reaction produced by an enzyme to indicate a positive result.
Inflammation of the epididymis of the testicle.
First void urine
First amount of urine passed (not a midstream sample nor first sample of the day).
Fluorescent treponemal antibody absorption (FTA-Abs) test
A specific test for antibodies to syphilis. This test remains positive for life after syphilis has been contracted, whether treated or not.
Gram stain
A common dye stain used in microbiology for classifying bacteria.
A rigidity of the muscles of the abdominal wall on physical examination; a sign of underlying peritonitis.
Granulomatous lumps that can occur in almost any organ; a manifestation of tertiary syphilis.
Enlargement of the liver and spleen.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
A virus which attacks specific cells of the immune system giving rise to immune deficiency.
The removal of the uterus by surgical operation.
Immunoglobulin of class G antibodies produced in response to an antigen. This immunoglobulin is longer lasting than IgM.
Immunoglobulin of class M antibodies. This antibody is produced on first exposure and the levels fall more rapidly than do those of lgG.
The state of an immune system that has been suppressed and as a result does not produce antibodies. Such suppression may be medication-induced (eg corticosteroids), or by disease (e.g. HIV).
Index case
The original person identified with an infection. The index case may or may not have infected other persons but represents a starting point for the process of contact tracing (sometimes referred to as ”index patient”).
Informed consent
A patient's agreement to a medical procedure (including physical examination), obtained after telling the patient what will be done and why. Patients are entitled to know what risks, if any, are involved in medical procedures offered to them. No medical procedures can proceed without the patient's informed consent.
Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction
A common reaction to treatment in patients with primary and secondary syphilis. It is a mild reaction with fever, headache, malaise, rigors and joint pains and lasts for several hours.
Ligase chain reaction (LCR)
See Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT).
Inflammation of the meninges or the lining of the brain.
The term “NAAT” has been used throughout the Guidelines as a generic term, which includes “PCR” and “LCR”. See Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT).
Needlestick injury
Inadvertent piercing of the skin with a hyperdermic needle or other sharp instrument.
An infant from birth to the age of four weeks (28 days).
One of the variety of white cells circulating in the blood stream, an increase of which occurs mostly in response to bacteria.
Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT)
A generic name for tests, most commonly the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), to detect the genetic material of an organism (e.g. Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Chlamydia trachomatis) in specimens of body fluids or tissues, rather than growing the organism itself. The tests work by amplifying the small amount of the organism’s genetic material in the specimen over a million-fold so that it can be more easily detected, making NAAT a very sensitive method.
Inflammation of the testicle.
PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA
The Western Australian Centre for Pathology and Medical Research.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
A condition characterised by lower abdominal pain caused by inflammation of the upper genital tract organs and their adnexae secondary to infection, that mimics a range of abdominal emergencies such as acute appendicitis or ectopic pregnancy and which can have serious outcomes, including peritonitis and infertility.
An enzyme produced by some bacteria, that is capable of antagonizing the antibacterial action of penicillin and certain other antibiotics.
Inflammation around the liver, usually in the region of the portal vein and bile ducts.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
See Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT).
Pre-term delivery
The delivery of an infant before the normal term of pregnancy.
Procaine reaction
A rare reaction to procaine penicillin, characterised by a sensation of impending doom with hallucinations.
Inflammation of the rectum.
A short tubular instrument used for examining the rectum.
The direct examination of the anorectal mucosa with the aid of a proctoscope.
Inflammation of the prostate gland.
Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR)
A test that measures antibodies to a protein called cardiolipin, which are formed during infection by Treponema pallidum. It can be quantified and hence can be used to monitor progress of infection or treatment.
Safe sex
Sexual activity that minimises the risk of transmitting infection: no exchange of bodily fluids; no penetrative sex without the use of a condom.
Safer sex practices

Mutual monogamy with a non-infected partner, avoiding multiple sexual partners or anonymous and other casual sex, and consistent and correct use of condoms with all partners not known to be free of infection.

Reference: Chin, J. (ed.) 2000, Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, 17th edn, American Public Health Association, Washington.

Inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
The process of testing individuals or individuals within communities who are not known to have an infection for the purpose of identifying otherwise unknown cases.
Tests on the patient's serum (blood tests) to detect antibodies or antigens (e.g. hepatitis B surface antigen) to infectious agents.
Sexual contact
Oral, vaginal, anal or some other form of sexual contact with the index case during the period when there was risk of transmission of infection.
A metal or disposable plastic instrument used to enable a visual examination of the vagina, ectocervix and cervical os.
A group of symptoms that patients describe, combined with the signs that providers observe during examination.
The extent to which an antibody-containing substance can be diluted before losing its power of reacting with the appropriate antigen. Expressed as titres of 1:2, 1:4, 1:8, 1:16, and so on.
Treponema pallidum haemagglutination test (TPHA)
A specific blood test for syphilis. This test remains positive for life after syphilis has been contracted, whether treated or not.
Treponema pallidum particle agglutination test (TPPA)
A specific blood test for syphilis. This test remains positive for life after syphilis has been contracted, whether treated or not.
Trichomonas vaginalis
A flagellated protozoan that causes inflammation of the vagina.
Inflammation of the urethra that may or may not be accompanied by a discharge.
A skin rash of varying type due to allergy. The rash is usually itchy.
Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test
A test that measures antibodies to a protein called cardiolipin, which are formed during infection by Treponema pallidum. It can be quantified and hence can be used to monitor progress of infection or treatment.
Western blot
A test for antibodies to various antigens. Particularly used to confirm a positive EIA test for HIV.
Window period
The period after infection, before sufficient antibodies have developed to be detected by tests. Test results will be negative, although the person is infected and infectious.