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Fast Start: Sex readily spreads HIV in infection's first weeks

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12:17pm, April 20, 2005

People with the AIDS virus are many times more infectious to their sexual partners in the weeks or months just after they acquire the virus than they are later on, researchers in Uganda have determined. The study confirms the long-standing hypothesis that, compared with those infected for years, people recently infected with HIV contribute to the spread of the virus in excess proportion to how often they have unprotected sex.

Identifying people with highly infectious, early-stage HIV—and treating them immediately or at least encouraging them to avoid unsafe behaviors—could prevent more new infections than do current practices, which primarily target people with advanced HIV, say Maria J. Wawer of Columbia University and her U.S. and Ugandan collaborators.

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