Incubation Period and Phases of Infection

The incubation is estimated at 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure. This depends, to some extent, on the ability of current laboratory tests to detect HIV antibodies or viral antigen. The development of PCR for viral RNA has improved sensitivity.

During the acute phase of the infection, approx 50% experience a seroconversion "flu-like" illness. The individual is infectious at this time, because viral antigen (p24) is present in the blood. As antibodies start to form, the viral antigen disappears and the individual enters the latent phase. He or she is noninfectious and remains well for a variable period of time (715 years). Development of AIDS marks the terminal phase of disease. Viral antigen reemerges, and the individual is once again infectious. The onset of AIDS has been considerably delayed with the use of antiretroviral treatment.

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