In less than 40 years, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection has gone from the public health threat of an unknown disease to a manageable chronic condition that allows people with it to live long, healthy lives.
HIV is a type of retrovirus, a virus that inserts its genome into the DNA of the infected person’s CD4 white blood cells, permanently altering the genome of those cells. Those altered cells act as “HIV producing factories,” creating more viruses until the cells burst, allowing the viruses to infect new cells.
Today, there are many types of medications available to treat HIV. However, if left untreated, an HIV infection can progress to a serious and fatal disease called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).