The HIV Life Cycle : Introduction

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The HIV Life Cycle
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Introduction

In order for viruses to reproduce, they must infect a cell. Viruses are not technically alive: they are sort of like a brain with no body. In order to make new viruses, they must hi-jack a cell, and use it to make new viruses. Just as your body is constantly making new skin cells, or new blood cells, each cell often makes new proteins in order to stay alive and to reproduce itself. Viruses hide their own DNA in the DNA of the cell, and then, when the cell tries to make new proteins, it accidentally makes new viruses as well. HIV mostly infects cells in the immune system.

Infection: Several different kinds of cells have proteins on their surface that are called CD4 receptors. HIV searches for cells that have CD4 surface receptors, because this particular protein enables the virus to bind to the cell. Although HIV infects a variety of cells, its main target is the T4-lymphocyte (also called the "T-helper cell"), a kind of white blood cell that has lots of CD4 receptors. The T4-cell is responsible for warning your immune system that there are invaders in the system.

Replication: Once HIV binds to a cell, it hides HIV DNA inside the cell's DNA: this turns the cell into a sort of HIV factory.

HIV - AIDS virus
representation of HIV

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Last Revised: November 14, 2008

This content is written by the POZ and AIDSmeds editorial team. For more information, please visit our "About Us" page.

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