Human Immunodeficiency Virus

This web page was produced as an assignment for an undergraduate course at Davidson College

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,  it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

                                                                -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

     The global epidemic of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and subsequently Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) has become the most pressing public health emergency of the century.  HIV, first reported by the New England Journal of Medicine in 1981, cited four homosexual men with pneumonia, fungal infections in the mouth, and numerous other viral infections, characteristic of a nonfunctioning immune system.  Currently HIV infects 33.4 million people worldwide and approximately 17 million people have died as a result of this infection (Stine, 1999).


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HIV Background Structure

HIV Life Cycle

CD4 T Cells Role in HIV Infection






Figure 1-  HIV is approximately 1,000 in diameter and the the basic surface structure consists of envelope proteins (shown in brown) that allow the virion to bind to target cells.  This image is used with permission from the Aids Education and Research Trust (AVERT).   <>
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a disease identified by the decline of a functional immune response.  HIV primarily infects CD4 T cells, which are crucial to the immune response by signaling and activating effector cells to carry out specific functions (Janeway et al., 1999).  After a period of latency the number of CD4 T cells, also known as T-helper cells, will decline significantly leading to opportunistic infections which characterize the end stage of HIV know as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).  HIV occurs in two strains: HIV-1 and HIV-2, however HIV-1 is generally accepted to be the cause of AIDS throughout the majority of the world (Stine, 1999).

This web site was created for an Immunology class.  Please direct correspondence to

Last Updated April 21, 2000

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