Acute HIV + Viral Load

During the first couple of months after someone becomes infected with HIV, their risk of passing on HIV is much higher. If you have sex without condoms and aren’t completely sure of your partner’s HIV status, get tested.

What is acute HIV infection?

Acute HIV infection is the first phase of HIV infection. It begins when a person is infected with HIV and lasts for about two months. When a person first gets HIV, the amount of HIV in his blood, cum, and other bodily fluids gets very high within a few days, as HIV is replicating itself very quickly at this point, making an individual much more likely to infect someone else when engaging in condomless anal sex.

Once the body begins to produce HIV antibodies in response to the virus, the amount of HIV in a person’s body 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.

How do I test for acute HIV infection?

The best test for detecting acute HIV infection is the Early HIV test (also known as NAAT/RNA testing). This test is available to guys over the age of 18 at select clinics in Vancouver, including the HIM Health Centres. The test is easy: a small blood sample is collected, sent to a lab, and results are available in about a week. Find a location where you can access the Early HIV test:

FIND A LOCATION NEAR YOU

The early HIV test looks for the virus itself, whereas other HIV tests usually look for antibodies to HIV. Most people will have enough of the virus in their blood 10 to 12 days after being infected for the early test to detect HIV infection. Antibody tests (i.e. rapid or standard HIV tests) may take at least three to four weeks after infection has taken place before showing a positive result. Learn more about window periods and HIV testing:

The HIV 'Window Period'

What should I do if I have been recently exposed to HIV?

If you think you have been exposed to HIV through condomless anal sex or a broken condom, you can reduce the chances of becoming HIV-positive by taking PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) – but you need to act quickly. PEP is HIV medication given to people soon after they are exposed to HIV to reduce the chances of becoming HIV-positive.

LEARN MORE ABOUT PEP

Sero-conversion Illness

HIV Viral Load