Understanding Variants: Exploring Different Types of HIV/AIDS Exist

Rishabh Mehta
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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types of hiv/aids

HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, adversely affects the immune system of humans.

According to WHO, in 2022, the number of people living globally who are infected with HIV is 39 million. 

HIV is categorized into types, groups, and subtypes, all of which may progress into AIDS. 

However, it is not necessary that the infection will progress into the STD. If treated, it can be controlled.

So, for preventing and treating HIV/AIDS, it is vital to observe its signs and to keep the knowledge updated about this STD and its types. 

This article presents a detailed version of the types of HIV/AIDS along with a brief of their impact, commonality, tests, and treatment. 

What is HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks and weakens the body’s immune system. 

It targets CD4, a type of white blood cell, by getting inside and killing them. 

The cycle repeats to spread the infection and weaken immunity. 

The infection can further progress to become Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). 

It is often considered the same as AIDS, but the two are different.

HIV is a virus that causes the infection, and the disease caused by this virus when the infection progresses is known as AIDS. 

Although 90 percent of HIV infections in the USA occur by sexual contact, HIV infection can also pass on via prenatal transmission (the mother passes the infection to her child).

Types of HIV

Despite HIV being a widespread infection, not many people are aware that it has types that further have groups. Even among these, several recombinations occur, leading to strains. 

There are two main types of HIV known, which are HIV-1 and HIV-2. 

HIV-1 is more common globally out of both the HIV types and was discovered earlier. 

So, mostly, when mentioning HIV, it is HIV-1. 

HIV-2 is mostly prevalent in West Africa but is slowly spreading to other parts of the world now. 


As discussed earlier, HIV-1 is the more common type, which finds its origin in a virus infecting Chimpanzees in Central Africa.

It is divided into four groups known as M, N, O, and P, in which M was found the earliest. 

Group M is also called the pandemic form of HIV-1, and it contributes to 97 percent of all HIV cases. 

This group is further classified into nine genotypes or subtypes, which are A, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, and K, along with multiple hybrids that occur from recombinations.

Genotype is any organism’s genetic makeup or the complete set of genes. HIV genotypes are classifications based on similar genetic makeup of the virus among different types and strains. These can be detected by genotypic resistance testing.


HIV-2 contributes to 1-2 percent of the HIV infection. It is harder to pass on to others and has a slower progression rate when turning into STD AIDS. 

This virus closely resembles SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) found in a monkey in West Africa. So, most of its cases are also limited to that region. 

However, it is now going beyond West Africa and has affected 1 to 2 million people globally. 

HIV 2 is divided into ten groups: A, B, C, D, E, F1, F2, G, H, and I. 

HIV-2 does not have any subtypes known until now.

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HIV treatment

hivSource: ktsimage_from_GettyImages
HIV blood sample

Although there is no way to cure HIV, it can be controlled with treatment. 

Untreated HIV continues to weaken the immune system, increases the risk of transmission mortality, and can also develop into AIDS. 

So, the treatment should begin as soon as the infection is diagnosed to minimize the damage and avoid spreading it to others. 

HIV weakens the immune system, making the person an easy target for Tuberculosis, Infections, and a few cancers. Consulting a doctor immediately after diagnosis to get treatment and control HIV is advised.

The primary treatment for HIV is Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), which includes a combination of 3 or more antiretroviral drugs. 

These medicines aim to stop HIV from multiplying and reduce its impact on the immune system to recover. 

This treatment works by reducing the viral load of the infected person to an undetectable level, which means HIV becomes too low to get detected. 

This ensures that HIV is not transmitted to another non-infected person. 

Some prescribed anti-HIV drug classes are 

  • Nucleoside-Analog Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)
  • Non–Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs)
  • Integrase inhibitors
  • Protease Inhibitors (PIs)
  • Fusion inhibitors
  • Coreceptor antagonists


HIV is an infection that can cause STD AIDS. 

It is divided into two categories, namely, HIV-1 and HIV-2. These two are further classified into groups and subtypes. 

Out of all, the M group of HIV-1 is the most common and is also known as the pandemic form of HIV. 

Altogether, any type or strain of the infection can lead to death if not treated timely. 

It is advised to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment, which helps enjoy a healthier, longer life and ensure safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of HIV are there?

There are two main types of HIV, which are HIV-1 and HIV-2. These types are further divided into groups. HIV-1 has four groups i.e., M, N, O, and P, and out of these, group M has nine subtypes. HIV 2 has 10 distinct groups and no known subtypes so far. 

Which type of HIV is more common?

HIV-1 is more common globally, while the second remains limited to West African people, that too in lesser numbers. HIV-1 transmits easily and has more chances of turning into AIDS, while the second type progresses slowly. Out of HIV-1 groups, the M group causes most of the infections worldwide. 

Who is at risk of getting HIV?

People whose partners have HIV are at the highest risk of getting infected. Besides, sexually active people indulging in risky practices like unprotected sex, multiple sex partners, and sharing sex toys are at risk of getting HIV. Moreover, people who use drugs and share needles are more likely to get infected. 

What is the difference between HIV 1 and HIV 2?

HIV-1 is more common worldwide, and it is associated with most of the HIV infections. HIV-2 has fewer cases and is limited to inhabitants of Western Africa. HIV-1 transmits easily and progresses faster into AIDS. In comparison, HIV-2 is harder to spread, and it has a lower chance of turning into AIDS. 

What are HIV subtypes? 

After two main types of HIV and their groups, they are divided further into subtypes. Group M of HIV-1 has nine subtypes denoted from letters A to K (E and I are not present). HIV-2 has no known subtypes so far.

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