What is HIV and how is it transmitted?

Updated: Jul 01, 2019
  • Author: Nicholas John Bennett, MBBCh, PhD, MA(Cantab), FAAP; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a blood-borne virus typically transmitted via sexual intercourse, shared intravenous drug paraphernalia, and mother-to-child transmission (MTCT), which can occur during the birth process or during breastfeeding. HIV disease is caused by infection with HIV-1 or HIV-2, which are retroviruses in the Retroviridae family, Lentivirus genus. See the image below.

Electron microscopy of human immunodeficiency viru Electron microscopy of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–1 virions. Courtesy of CDC (Dr Edwin P Ewing, Jr).

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