The mechanism of host cell destruction remains under investigation, but three possibilities have been proposed:
- Viral budding tears a hole in the host cell's membrane, causing cytoplasmic leakage.
- The supply of useful T-lymphocytes is depleted. Dendritic (immune) cells fuse with CD4 cells (syncytia formation) and release large amounts of virus.
- Some mechanisms cause the provirus to provoke the synthesis of a large number of new HIV particles, causing the rapid depletion of cellular components and with it, the destruction of the cell.