Basic HIV virology

Stuart Turville

Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW

Last reviewed: December 2018


The acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV-1 was initially identified by Luc Montanier at the Institute Pasteur, Paris, in 1983 [1] and was then more fully characterized in 1984 by Robert Gallo in Washington [2] and Jay Levy in San Francisco [3, 4]. A second virus, HIV-2, was isolated from West African patients in 1986 [5]. Viruses similar to HIV-1 and HIV-2 have been isolated from chimpanzees and wild African monkeys [6]. It is most likely that HIV-1 and HIV-2 crossed species from primates to humans in Africa several times over the last hundred years with the earliest known samples of HIV-1 isolated from preserved tissues samples from 1959 and 1960 [6-8]. The genetic diversity of these two HIV-1 isolates at that time estimates the most recent common ancestor for HIV-1 to be around 1908 [6-8].