Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
The virus was first described in 1981, and since then scientists and clinicians have made great progress in developing treatments to slow down the progression of disease, and to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV. Despite this, there is no cure for HIV infection, and the disease needs careful monitoring for life. Over 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and in the US alone, approximately 35,000 people are diagnosed with AIDS and there are 15,000 deaths each year. These statistics continue to provide the sense of urgency that propels HIV research. An HIV vaccine represents a practical and inexpensive option for controlling the global epidemic, and is one of the most compelling challenges in biomedical research today.