Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a single-stranded RNA retrovirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in which individuals are at increased risk for developing certain infections and malignancies. The virus is found in two major forms: HIV-1, the most prevalent worldwide, and HIV-2, the most common in western Africa. More than 22 million people have died of HIV infection, and 40 million are believed to be infected worldwide. AIDS epidemics threaten populations in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and Russia. In the United States about 450,000 deaths have occurred and another 900,000 people are estimated to carry the virus. Although the development of new drugs, complex multidrug regimens, and behavioral modification have done much to combat the spread of HIV in fection, AIDS remains a serious threat because of the expense and inaccessibility of antiretroviral agents in the developing countries in which the disease is most prevalent. In addition, the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs has been diminished by the emergence of mul-tidrug-resistant virus.
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