What is acute HIV infection?

  1. Acute HIV Infection is the first phase after becoming infected with HIV and lasts for about two months. Sometimes it is also called Primary HIV Infection but this usually refers to the first six months after becoming infected.

  1. The majority of people in the Acute HIV Infection phase will experience a collection of “flu-like” symptoms. These symptoms are referred to as a seroconversion illness. More about seroconversion illness on our FAQ page.

Acute HIV Infection and viral load

  1. When someone get exposed and infected with HIV, the amount of HIV in the blood and other body fluids such as cum and pre-cum, gets very high within a few days.  What’s happening is that the HIV virus is replicating itself very quickly, making an individual much more likely to infect someone else if risk behaviors occur.

  1. It is thought that individuals in the acute stage of infection are approximately 26 times more infectious than they will be in the phase following Acute HIV Infection. Growing evidence suggests that a significant proportion of new HIV infections are acquired from highly infectious, acutely-infected individuals, who do not know they are positive. 

  1. Unfortunately most individuals who are in this Acute HIV Infection phase do not know they are infected. This may be due to varying window periods.  More on window periods on our FAQ page.

  1. Once the body begins to produce HIV antibodies in response to the virus, the amount of HIV drops to a lower and more stable level.  The individual is still able to pass on the virus, but the likelihood of transmission is decreased.

Acute HIV Infection and HIV tests

  1. The good news is that testing technologies have improved so that someone can learn if they are in the Acute HIV Infection phase. Standard tests, used up to now, have not been able to pick up that someone is infected in this phase because of the ‘window period’. 

  1. An Early HIV test is a test that looks for the HIV virus instead of antibodies. The vast majority of people will have enough virus in their blood at 10 to 12 days after being infected to test positive on this test.  More info on the Early test here.