The acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) characterised by ‘the presence of a reliably diagnosed disease at least moderately indicative of an underlying cellular immune deficiency in a person with no known underlying cause of cellular immune deficiency nor any other cause of reduced resistance reported to be associated with that disease’ was recognised in 1981 in male homosexuals. The patient population was subsequently found to contain intravenous drug abusers, prostitutes, persons who had received blood transfusions and some blood products, individuals from some African and Caribbean countries and the sexual partners and children of persons in these groups.

AIDS was subsequently discovered to be the most severe clinical expression of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), an RNA virus containing the enzyme reverse transcriptase. HIV is cytopathic for the CD4+ subset of T-lymphocytes and for various other cell types
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