What Virus Causes HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is caused by two closely related viruses: HIV-1 and HIV-2. These viruses belong to the retrovirus family and primarily target the immune system, specifically CD4+ T cells, which play a critical role in the body’s defense against infections.

HIV-1 is the most common and widely spread type of HIV worldwide and is responsible for the majority of HIV infections. HIV-2 is less common and primarily found in some parts of West Africa. While both types of HIV can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), HIV-2 generally progresses more slowly and is less easily transmitted than HIV-1.

HIV is primarily transmitted through contact with certain bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk, from an infected person to another person. It can be transmitted through sexual contact, sharing of needles and syringes among people who use injectable drugs, mother-to-child transmission during childbirth or breastfeeding, and, less commonly, through blood transfusions or organ transplants from infected donors (though stringent screening measures are in place to minimize this risk).

HIV infection can lead to a progressive weakening of the immune system, ultimately resulting in a range of opportunistic infections and certain cancers. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the primary treatment for HIV, and when taken as prescribed, it can effectively control the virus, allowing individuals with HIV to live longer, healthier lives and reducing the risk of transmission to others. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is also available for individuals at high risk of HIV infection to prevent transmission.

It’s important to note that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact, such as hugging, kissing, sharing utensils, or through air or water. Knowledge of HIV transmission routes and practicing safe behaviors can help prevent the spread of the virus. Additionally, getting tested for HIV and seeking medical care and treatment if infected are critical steps in managing the virus and preventing its progression to AIDS.

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