The abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a retrovirus (see virus) and is the cause of AIDS. There are 2 closely related viruses: HIV-1, which is the most common cause of AIDS throughout the world; and HIV-2, which is largely confined to West Africa. HIV gains access to the body through contaminated blood transfusions, nonsterile needles, or sexual intercourse. A fetus may be infected via the placenta. HIV has an affinity for the T-lymphocytes, in which the virus multiplies and, in some cases, destroys function. People with HIV infection should have regular monitoring in order to determine when specific treatments, such as antiretroviral drugs, are necessary.


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