A systematic review of qualitative research on recently acquired HIV


OBJECTIVES: Recently acquired HIV is a critical time when people may experience debilitating symptoms and is when they are most likely to pass HIV on. Qualitative research offers insights into lived experiences and a deeper understanding of the contextual factors underlying HIV acquisition. We aimed to synthesize qualitative literature on recently acquired HIV. DESIGN: Systematic review and textual narrative synthesis. METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL Plus, PsycINFO and Sociology Database. Articles were screened, and two authors completed full text review and data extraction. Quality appraisal was conducted (Critical Appraisal Skills Programme Qualitative Studies Checklist) and certainty of findings graded (GRADE-CERQual). RESULTS: We reviewed 1890 articles (1554 following de-duplication), excluding 1539. Fifteen articles were included and an additional article was included after updating the search. We identified 15 themes, three of which we have high confidence in: recent acquisition of HIV facilitates understanding of circumstances of HIV acquisition; indeterminate HIV tests generate uncertainty and anxiety; and people with recently acquired HIV are motivated to reduce risk of onward transmission. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings highlight the importance of continued research into recently acquired HIV, as well as the need for support to manage the emotional impact of indeterminate test results and negotiate risk reduction. We found no studies exploring sexual risk in the context of recently acquired HIV, or use of pre-exposure prophylaxis or treatment as prevention. The literature is primarily focused on HIV acquisition from an individual and behavioural perspective, neglecting important aspects of lived experience such as immediate ART, stigma, and health and wellbeing.


Nicholls EJ, Policek N, Volny-Anne A, Spire B, Burns F, Ruiz-Burga E, Tariq S




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Testing
    • Testing


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