Background: Although many individuals who acquire HIV are symptomatic, primary HIV infection (PHI) is infrequently diagnosed, even after the integration of RNA testing into HIV screening programs. Until more individuals with PHI seek evaluation, the public health impact of RNA testing is likely to be small.
Objective: To describe knowledge of PHI and attitudes toward health care-seeking behavior for symptoms consistent with PHI in men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods: Between April 2004 and March 2005, HIV-negative MSM attending the Public Health-Seattle and King County sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic completed an anonymous, self-administered, written questionnaire.
Results: Ninety-six (64%) of 150 subjects named > or =1 symptom associated with PHI. Only 18 (39%) of 46 men who knew PHI could resemble influenza would seek care for flu-like symptoms. Fifteen (65%) of 23 men reporting a week-long febrile illness with rash in the preceding year sought health care, but only 7 (30%) were tested for HIV.
Conclusions: Although most subjects identified some symptoms of PHI, relatively few would seek care for such symptoms. MSM seeking attention for febrile illnesses were infrequently tested for HIV. Increased symptom recognition, health care-seeking behavior, and routine HIV RNA testing are needed if PHI screening programs are to have meaningful impact.