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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) capsid proteins, computer artwork. HIV particles (virions) are composed of a lipid bilayer (fatty) envelope, conataining a protein core (capsid) that encases RNA (ribonucleic acid), the genetic material of the virus. Embedded in the capsid are several protiens that enable the virion to infect its host's cells. HIV attacks the immune system and weakens one's defenses against infection. If untreated, HIV will develop into AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. With AIDS, the body can no longer fight life-threatening infections. HIV is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact or shared hypodermic needles.
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