2. 3 Definition of HIV
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
- Human – means it is a virus that infects humans.
- Immunodeficiency – means it reduces the immune system.
- Virus – means that the infection is a virus!
A virus is defined as a genetic organism that can only reproduce inside cells of another living organism. Some viruses are harmless and others can cause illness. Anti-viral drugs are used to treat viral infections.
Viral infections that affect people with HIV include hepatitis A, B and C, herpes (HSV-1 and HSV-2), cytomegalovirus (CMV) and human papilloma virus (HPV).
HIV belongs to a family of viruses called retroviruses. This is why HIV drugs are called antiretrovirals (or ARVs).
A retrovirus is a type of virus that needs to make a ‘backward step’ in order to reproduce – hence ‘retro’.
Last updated: 1 January 2016.