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What are HIV 1 and 2?

HIV-1 and HIV-2 are the two major types of the human immunodeficiency virus.

What is HIV-1?

HIV-1 was the first one discovered and is the most widespread type worldwide. It comprises groups M (main), O (outlier), and N (non-M or O). 

This virus type is the one we normally think of when we think of HIV. It attacks the body's immune system and destroys CD4 cells, which help the body fight off infections. If it damages the immune system severely, it can lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

What is HIV-2?

HIV-2 is more than 55% genetically different from HIV-1. It has two main subtypes, A and B. This strain is thought to have originated in western Africa, where it is significantly more prevalent than anywhere else, and where it mostly remains confined.

Compared to HIV-1, it has a longer asymptomatic stage, lower plasma viral loads, and a lower mortality rate. However, progression to AIDS and death will occur in the majority of individuals without treatment. It’s also resistant to certain drugs used to treat HIV-1, making it that much more important to detect early.

It’s important to test for both

While HIV-2 is still largely present only in individuals of West African origin or their sexual partners, small case numbers have been found in populations of all continents. This is why testing for both variants is more important now than in the past.

Because they are so genetically different, HIV-1 and HIV-2 antigens are distinct enough that for a diagnostic test developed only to detect HIV-1 not to be able to reliably detect HIV-2. For this reason, when looking for a test, you need to make sure it is sensitive to both virus types. 

All at-home tests in our Webshop are designed to detect both HIV-1 and HIV-2. Order your test today and receive it within 24h in most European countries.

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