HIV can only replicate (make new copies of itself) inside human cells. The process typically begins when a virus particle bumps into a cell that carries on its surface a special protein called CD4. The spikes on the surface of the virus particle stick to the CD4 and allow the viral envelope to fuse with the cell membrane. The contents of the HIV particle are then released into the cell, leaving the envelope behind. Once inside the cell, the HIV enzyme reverse transcriptase converts the viral RNA into DNA, which is compatible with human genetic material. This DNA is transported to the cell's nucleus, where it is spliced into the human DNA by the HIV enzyme integrase. Once integrated, the HIV DNA is known as provirus.
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