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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a diploid virus: each virion carries two complete RNA genomic strands. Homologous recombination can occur when a cell is coinfected with two different but related strains. Naturally occurring recombinant HIV strains have been found in infected patients in regions of the world where multiple genotypic variants cocirculate. One recombinant HIV strain has spread rapidly to millions of persons in Southeast Asia. Recombination is a mechanism whereby high level and multidrug-resistant strains may be generated in individual treated patients. Recombination also poses theoretical problems for the development of a safe HIV vaccine. Certain features of HIV replication, such as syncytium formation and transactivation, may be best understood as components of a sexual reproductive cycle. Recombination may be an important HIV evolutionary strategy.