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What is HIV-2?

Comparing HIV-1 and HIV-2


Female doctor examining male patient's glands in clinic
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What is HIV-2?

HIV-2 (or Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 2) is a second type of HIV discovered in 1986, but is believed to have been present in Africa much earlier. HIV-2 is primarily found in West Africa.

What's the Difference Between HIV-1 and HIV-2

According to the Center for Disease Control...
  • HIV-2 is transmitted in the same ways as HIV-1: Through exposure to bodily fluids such as blood, semen, tears and vaginal fluids.

  • Both HIV-1 and HIV-2 can develop into AIDS or what the Center for Disease Control calls "opportunistic infections" (otherwise milder infections that can become serious or deadly against a weakened immune system).

  • Immunodeficiency (or a weakened immune system) develops more slowly and is milder in persons with HIV-2.

  • People infected with HIV-2 are less infectious in the early stages of the virus than those with HIV-1.

  • The infectiousness of HIV-2 increases as the virus progresses.

  • Most reported cases of HIV-2 are found in West Africa. There are few reported cases of HIV-2 in the United States.
Is Treatment for HIV-2 Different Than Treatment for HIV-1?

Some of the drugs used to treat HIV-1 are not effective against HIV-2. Studies are still unclear as to the best treatment for HIV-2. HIV-2 is also more difficult to monitor than HIV-1 in the U.S., since there is no FDA-licensed viral load assay available.

Are Blood Donors Tested for HIV-2?

Donated blood samples are tested for both HIV-1 and HIV-2. Also, see Why Gay Men Can't Donate Blood.

Is It Better To Have HIV-2 Than HIV-1?

Remember, there is no cure for HIV-1, HIV-2 or AIDS. Though there are slight differences in the two strands of HIV, both HIV-1 and HIV-2 lead to the same life-threatening result.

Where Can I Get More Information on HIV-1 and HIV-2?

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, including why you should get tested and how you can help prevent the spread of the deadly disease, visit the following resources:
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  3. Gay Life
  4. Gay Men's Health
  5. Health
  7. What Is HIV-2? Comparing HIV-1 and HIV-2

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