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Human immunodeficiency virus: Past, present and future

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Around 100,000 people in the UK live with HIV Around 100,000 people in the UK are living with HIV. The majority will not develop AIDS, but a cure remains elusive

Efforts to treat and eradicate Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) remain elusive. Over 30 years after HIV-1 was identified, HIV remains an ongoing medical issue.

What is HIV?

HIV is a retrovirus that is unable to self-replicate, but infects and uses human CD4 T cells replicating to spread throughout the body. Over time, HIV particles destroy CD4 T cells, reducing an individual’s ability to fight pathogens, leaving the person vulnerable to opportunistic infections.

Those who develop several such infections are experiencing the most advanced stage of HIV and are diagnosed with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Whilst there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, treatments have been developed, so that the majority of people with HIV never progress to developing AIDS. See box 1.

The speed at which HIV progresses differs depending on the person’s age, health and background. Understanding the HIV life cycle can help those who are providing and developing treatments to know how to attack the virus and in so doing reduce its ability to multiply.1

Early disease classifications

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