Sharing research on recent HIV infection

Greta Hughson, Roger Pebody
Published: 14 June 2012

We’ve added a new title to our series of illustrated leaflets. Called Very recent infection, the leaflet covers key information for someone who has recently been infected with HIV, a stage sometimes called ‘primary’ or ‘acute’ HIV infection.

During this period, which may include a short ‘seroconversion’ illness, viral load is high and there is a greater risk of passing on HIV. Being diagnosed at this point can affect decisions about taking HIV treatment. It can be a confusing and stressful time for those involved.

In order to develop this resource, we worked in partnership with the clinicians and researchers behind the SPARTAC trial, as well as with other HIV professionals and people living with HIV.

The SPARTAC trial

SPARTAC is short for ‘short pulse antiretroviral therapy at HIV seroconversion’. The SPARTAC trial was set up to investigate whether taking HIV treatment for a short time, soon after infection, would slow down the damage caused by HIV. If the immune system was protected at this early stage, it might mean that starting long-term HIV treatment could be delayed.

The trial ran from 2003 to 2011, in eight countries, and studied 366 people, monitoring each person for at least three years. Full results of the trial will be published in a peer-reviewed journal soon, but initial findings were presented at the International AIDS Society conference in Rome last year.

SPARTAC results were also important in shaping the latest British HIV Association (BHIVA) treatment guidelines, which outline the circumstances in which treatment is indicated for a person diagnosed during primary infection.

The SPARTAC team were keen to communicate the findings of their research to people who could benefit from practical, usable information on recent infection. As people sometimes feel overwhelmed by the information they are given soon after diagnosis, the simple format of our ‘Basics’ illustrated leaflets was felt to be an appropriate medium to use.

Making decisions about HIV treatment

Not everyone needs to take HIV treatment straightaway but, in certain circumstances, treatment may be recommended for people who have only recently been infected. It is important that people living with HIV and their doctors work together to make decisions about starting treatment. This resource, together with others in the series, is designed to support conversations about treatment and living well with HIV.

We’d like to thank

We are very grateful to Dr Sarah Fidler of SPARTAC and Imperial College London for her support in developing this resource. We would also like to thank Agnes Becker, Dr Roger Tatoud, Scott Mullanney, Dr Martin Fisher, Dr Julie Fox and Dr Sabine Kinloch of SPARTAC for their help. Thanks also to the HIV professionals and people living with HIV who provided feedback that shaped this resource, including Rob, Martin, Colin, Positive Health (Lincolnshire), Justin Dickson and service users at Terrence Higgins Trust.

For more information

There is more detailed information on the SPARTAC trial on the Imperial College London website. Visit:

You can view or download the Very recent infection leaflet, and all the other titles in The basics series from our resources pages at

This title is available in print, so if you would like a print copy, do get in touch. If you work in an HIV clinic or organisation in the UK, you can also join our free booklet scheme. Through the scheme you can order multiple copies of our booklets and basics. Contact us on 020 7837 6988 or to find out more.

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.