Note: this site last updated in 2006
HIV virus particle
If you were to look at a HIV virus particle under a microscope, it would look something like this:
The size of the particle is around 0.0001mm.
(For a more detailed simulation, see 3D HIV.)
There are two main parts, essentially: the inner core (the "pill-shaped" section in the diagram), and the viral membrane. Let's look at these in a little more detail:
The viral membrane encloses the particle, and has about nine or ten gp160 spikes embedded in it which are involved in binding and membrane fusion when the virus particle attaches to a cell.
The inner core is the "payload" of the virus, containing the viral RNA and some enzymes (reverse transcriptase, protease, integrase).