Smith MK, Rutstein SE, Powers KA, Fidler S, Miller WC, Eron JJ Jr, Cohen MS. The detection and management of early HIV infection: a clinical and public health emergency. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2013, 63: S187-99. PMC4015137
This review considers the detection and management of early HIV infection (EHI), defined here as the first 6 months of infection. This phase is clinically important because a reservoir of infected cells formed in the individual renders HIV incurable, and the magnitude of viremia at the end of this period predicts the natural history of disease. Epidemiologically, it is critical because the very high viral load that typically accompanies early infection also makes infected individuals maximally contagious to their sexual partners. Future efforts to prevent HIV transmission with expanded testing and treatment may be compromised by elevated transmission risk earlier in the course of HIV infection, although the extent of this impact is yet unknown. Treatment as prevention efforts will nevertheless need to develop strategies to address testing, linkage to care, and treatment of EHI. Cost-effective and efficient identification of more persons with early HIV will depend on advancements in diagnostic technology and strengthened symptom-based screening strategies. Treatment for persons with EHI must balance individual health benefits and reduction of the risk of onward viral transmission. An increasing body of evidence supports the use of immediate antiretroviral therapy to treat EHI to maintain CD4 count and functionality, limit the size of the HIV reservoir, and reduce the risk of onward viral transmission. Although we can anticipate considerable challenges in identifying and linking to care persons in the earliest phases of HIV infection, there are many reasons to pursue this strategy.