- HIV is a complex member of the Lentivirus genus of the Retroviridae family. A lipid bilayer envelope surrounds the cylindrical core that contains the RNA genetic information and the machinery that promotes viral replication and integration during initial cellular infection. From the outside, the virion appears spherical, with a diameter of 110 nm.
- HIV-1 is the most common cause of HIV infection in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. HIV type 2 (HIV-2) has caused epidemics in West Africa, although this virus is also found in European countries.
- HIV-2 disease progresses more slowly than HIV-1 disease, and HIV-2 is less transmissible.
- HIV-1 subtypes differ by geographic region.
- HIV-1 subtype B is predominant in the United States.
- Non-B subtypes are particularly prevalent in Africa and Asia.
- The high transmission rate from Africa to Europe has increased the diversity of subtypes in Europe. Non-B subtype HIV-1 infections are increasing in the United States.
- Certain viral load tests are not sensitive to HIV-1 non-B subtypes, resulting in a significantly reduced viral load value if such tests are used to process non-B subtype samples.
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