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Scientific background

In untreated HIV infection, the viral load - the concentration of virus in the blood - increases to a very high value shortly after infection, then decreases to a relatively stable value during the chronic phase before AIDS. This stable value, called the set-point viral load (SPVL), is predictive of the damage caused to the immune system by the virus. The SPVL is extremely variable between individuals, partly due to differences in their immune systems, partly due to the virus itself. We want to better understand the mechanisms through which the virus affects SPVL and other properties of the infection.