What is HIV?

HIV is an abbreviation for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a retrovirus. Retroviruses have a different inherited genetic material than human body cells. The inherited material is called RNS; the human inherited material is DNA. In order to multiply itself with the help of human cells, the virus needs to translate its inherited material using the enzyme “reverse transcriptase”. There are two different HIV-types: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is the most common type worldwide; HIV-2 mainly appears in West-Africa. HIV primarily attacks a sub-group of the lymphocytes that belong to the immune system. These cells are called CD4-lymphocytes. They are vital for a working immune system. Every day in the organism of an HIV-infected person, new viruses are built and destroyed by the immune system, in doing so CD4-lymphocytes are destroyed.

This destruction of CD4-lymphocytes by HIV can be compensated by the immune system for many years due to an ongoing production of new cells, but in the long run CD4-lymphocytes will decrease and the immune system will be compromised. And as a consequence, the body is not able anymore to fight against other infections and life-threatening diseases, which might occur.

Replication of the HI Virus