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OBJECTIVE: We present findings from a large cohort of individuals treated during primary HIV infection (PHI) and examine the impact of time from HIV-1 acquisition to antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation on clinical outcomes. We also examine the temporal changes in the demographics of individuals presenting with PHI to inform HIV-1 prevention strategies. METHODS: Individuals who fulfilled the criteria of PHI and started ART within 3 months of confirmed HIV-1 diagnosis were enrolled between 2009 and 2020. Baseline demographics of those diagnosed between 2009 and 2015 (before preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and universal ART availability) and 2015-2020 (post-PrEP and universal ART availability) were compared. We examined the factors associated with immune recovery and time to viral suppression. RESULTS: Two hundred four individuals enrolled, 144 from 2009 to 2015 and 90 from 2015 to 2020; median follow-up was 33 months. At PHI, the median age was 33 years; 4% were women, 39% were UK-born, and 84% were MSM. The proportion of UK-born individuals was 47% in 2009-2015, compared with 29% in 2015-2020. There was an association between earlier ART initiation after PHI diagnosis and increased immune recovery; each day that ART was delayed was associated with a lower likelihood of achieving a CD4 + cell count more than 900 cells/μl [hazard ratio 0.99 (95% confidence interval, 95% CI 0.98-0.99), P  = 0.02) and CD4/CD8 more than 1.0 (hazard ratio 0.98 (95% CI 0.97-0.99). CONCLUSION: Early initiation of ART at PHI diagnosis is associated with enhanced immune recovery, providing further evidence to support immediate ART in the context of PHI. Non-UK-born MSM accounts for an increasing proportion of those with primary infection; UK HIV-1 prevention strategies should better target this group.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





679 - 688


Male, Humans, Female, Adult, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Homosexuality, Male, Sexual and Gender Minorities, CD4 Lymphocyte Count, HIV Seropositivity, Anti-HIV Agents, Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active