Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in humans in which the immune system begins to fail, leading to life-threatening opportunistic infections.
The four major routes of transmission of HIV are unprotected sexual intercourse, contaminated needles, breast milk, and transmission from an infected mother to her baby at birth. Screening of blood products for HIV has largely eliminated transmission through blood transfusions or infected blood products in the developed world.
It is estimated that about 0.6% of the world’s population is infected with HIV. In 2005 alone, AIDS claimed an estimated 2.4–3.3 million lives, of which more than 570,000 were children.
HIV primarily infects vital cells in the human immune system such as helper T cells (specifically CD4+ T cells), macrophages and dendritic cells.
About 9 out of every 10 persons with HIV will progress to AIDS after 10-15 years.