Primary infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is generally followed by a burst of viraemia with or without clinical symptoms. This in turn is followed by a prolonged period of clinical latency. During this period there is little, if any, detectable viraemia, the numbers of infected cells in the blood are very low, and it is extremely difficult to demonstrate virus expression in these cells. We have analysed viral burden and levels of virus replication simultaneously in the blood and lymphoid organs of the same individuals at various stages of HIV disease. Here we report that in early-stage disease there is a dichotomy between the levels of viral burden and virus replication in peripheral blood versus lymphoid organs. HIV disease is active in the lymphoid tissue throughout the period of clinical latency, even at times when minimal viral activity is demonstrated in blood.