Transmission of HIV from recently infected individuals contributes to the number of new cases of infection, but the extent to which it occurs from those who are unaware of their infection is not known. Phylogenetic analysis was performed on 209 cases of acute HIV subtype B infection detected between January 2005 and September 2010, most of whom (88%) were men who have sex with men. Only new cases with an evolving western blot profile confirmed by detection of HIV RNA were included. Subjects whose known dates of seroconversion were within one month of at least one other phylogenetically linked case identified during the near 6 years of study were then examined to estimate the prevalence of onward transmission. Almost 30% of cases could have acquired their infection from another person undergoing seroconversion within the same month. Temporal increases in the number of phylogenetically related strains within several clusters were demonstrated during the study, although the rate of increase varied. Transmission of HIV from individuals undergoing seroconversion is an important contributor to the number of new infections identified every year and very likely occurs before they have knowledge of their infection. Clusters of related HIV strains can grow at a disconcerting rate, demonstrating that more-focused public health efforts are required to minimise further HIV transmissions within sexual networks.
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