The page below is a sample from the LabCE course HIV: Structure, Replication, and Detection. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Stages of HIV Infection

HIV infection progresses at varying rates and may never progress to the final stage of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The table below lists the stages of infection and characteristics associated with each stage.
StageDurationClinical SymptomsCharacteristics
Acute HIV infection (AHI)Occurs within weeks of infection and lasts a few days to several weeks. Resolves concomitantly with the onset of immune response to the infection. Influenza-like symptoms in 40-90% of cases. Patient may seek medical attention, if symptoms are severe.
  • High levels of viremia
  • Transient depression in CD4 T-lymphocytes
  • Elevation of CD8 T-lymphocytes
Latent phaseLasts from several months to >15 years.Asymptomatic
  • HIV replication establishes a steady state and virus levels in plasma reach a "set point" (the viral load that the body settles at within a few weeks to months after HIV infection)
  • CD4 T-lymphocyte counts slowly decline
AIDSVaries. Immune system has collapsed.Patients prone to life-threatening opportunistic infections and malignancies.
  • CD4 T-lymphocyte count declines to <200 cells/µL.
  • Virus levels climb