Research suggests that when someone becomes infected with HIV, the amount of HIV in the blood and other body fluids (such as semen) becomes very high within a few days. During this time, the HIV virus is multiplying very quickly, making an individual much more likely to infect someone else.
Guys in the acute or initial stages of infection are about 26 times more infectious than they will be in the phase following acute HIV infection. 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.
Many new HIV infections are acquired from guys who are in the acute phase of their infection, who may not know they are HIV positive, and who likely have high viral loads. This is another reason why gay guys should get tested if they have been exposed to HIV.
To learn more about the different HIV tests available, click here. To use the HIV risk calculator, click here (warning: explicit content).
The best way to avoid HIV infection is to use condoms when having anal sex with someone whose HIV status you don’t know. For a list of locations that provide free condoms, click here.
Things You Should Know About Acute HIV & HIV Testing
- 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, semen, and other bodily fluids gets very high within a few days, as the HIV virus is replicating itself very quickly at this point.
- A person with acute HIV infection is much more likely to transmit HIV to others if they are having anal sex without condoms during this time.
- The early HIV test can detect HIV during the acute infection phase. 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 several clinics in Vancouver, including the HIM Sexual Health Centre. The test is easy: a small blood sample is collected and sent to a lab, and results are available in about a week.
- The early HIV test looks for the HIV virus itself, whereas other HIV tests usually look for antibodies. Most people will have enough of the virus in their blood ten to 12 days after being infected for the early test to detect HIV infection.
- If you think you may have been exposed to HIV through risky sex, or via a broken condom, you can reduce your chance of becoming HIV positive—but you need to act quickly. PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is HIV medication given to people soon after they are exposed to HIV to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive. Click here to learn more about PEP.
- You can now get an accurate HIV test ten days after risky sex. If you have anal sex without condoms and aren’t completely sure of your partner’s HIV status, get tested today.