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The viral envelope (gray) and viral proteins (red) involved in binding to and entering host cells are shown. The conical core is not visible.
HIV was first recognized in humans in the 1980s. The virus infects and destroys immune cells, which means that as the infection progresses, people lose their ability to fight off disease. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) refers to the advanced stages of HIV infection, when a person's immune system is severely impaired. Because HIV has evolved to permanently incorporate its genome into that of a host cell, the infection lasts a lifetime. There is no vaccine against HIV, although numerous drugs can keep infection at bay and hinder disease progression. Nearly 37 million people worldwide were infected with HIV by the end of 2014 and an estimated 2 million new infections occur every year.