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HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It penetrates the body and acts on the human immune system, preventing it from fighting diseases. The last stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

The human immunodeficiency virus was discovered independently in two laboratories around the world as part of the study of the causes of AIDS: in France at the Pasteur Institute by Luc Montagnier (1983) and Robert Gallo at the National Cancer Institute in the USA (1984).

How HIV works

The human immunodeficiency virus is a retrovirus that belongs to the lentivirus genus. This family of viruses is characterized by a slow and uneven rate of disease development, a long incubation period.

The shape of the immunodeficiency virus resembles a tiny truncated cone. Under the dense shell-capsid is an RNA molecule – the genetic code of the virus, as well as various enzymes that it needs to penetrate into human cells and reproduce.

The immunodeficiency virus has a high variability, each newly formed virus at least slightly, but differs from the “parent”. This is one of the reasons why there is no vaccine against HIV.

Among all existing immunodeficiency viruses, 4 types have been identified, the most different from each other. HIV-1 and HIV-2 are the most common causes of AIDS.

Sources of HIV infection

HIV is very unstable in the external environment. Outside the body, it is very quickly destroyed, so it is almost impossible to get infected by household means. The main route of infection is sexual. In addition, infection is possible from mother to fetus during pregnancy and childbirth, from mother to child with milk. The human immunodeficiency virus is easily transmitted through the blood – when infected blood is transfused.

The risk group for HIV infection is people who inject drugs.

Professional infection of doctors and other workers who have contact with biological fluids from an infected patient is possible: blood, semen, vaginal discharge, trachea, bronchi, etc.

Saliva and tear fluid contain minimal amounts of HIV, so transmission through these fluids has not been noted. Infection through a kiss is possible if there are ulcers in the mouth, bleeding wounds.

Read more: How does HIV get infected?

Mechanism of infection

HIV, penetrating the body, affects the cells of the immune system, which usually provide the production of natural immunity, protect the body from various diseases.

As a result of infection, the protective effect of the immune system gradually decreases, a person becomes susceptible to various infections.

Even ordinary microbes that are not normally harmful to humans (intestinal, vaginal, oral microflora) begin to cause dangerous diseases.

Some people are thought to have inherent immunity to the human immunodeficiency virus. This is due to the genetic features of the structure of the immune system: immune cells are protected from the penetration of viral particles into them. Thus, according to estimates, 1% of Europeans have complete immunity to HIV and 10-15% have partial immunity: they can get sick, but the disease is slower and easier.


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