In some cases, HIV does not start replicating immediately upon entering a new host cell. Once the DNA enters the host cell's genome, HIV can persist for years inside the body without causing the symptoms that define AIDS. But even at this stage (called latency), the virus can still be transmitted to others. Latency is one of the greatest challenges to finding a cure or vaccine for AIDS and is why people with AIDS must take antiretoviral drugs for life. Currently, there is no way to get rid of HIV once it has entered the body.

Other Immune Cells

Despite the critical role that CD4+ cells play in the HIV life cycle and the progression of AIDS, it is not entirely true that destruction of CD4+ cells causes AIDS. Although its greatest effect is on the CD4+ cells, HIV infects and damages other immune system cells as well.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Nov 2007

Last Modified: 12 Aug 2015