Institute for Global Health


CASCADE Publications

As part of the CASCADE study's aim to promote better understanding of effective health planning for people with HIV, insights from the study are disseminated through academic publication.

A systematic review of qualitative research on recently acquired HIV


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.


Systematic review and textual narrative synthesis.


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).


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.


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.

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CASCADE protocol: exploring current viral and host characteristics, measuring clinical and patient-reported outcomes, and understanding the lived experiences and needs of individuals with recently acquired HIV infection through a multicentre mixed-methods observational study in Europe and Canada


Despite the availability of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy (ART), 21 793 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Europe in 2019. The Concerted action on seroconversion to AIDS and death in Europe study aims to understand current drivers of the HIV epidemic; factors associated with access to, and uptake of prevention methods and ART initiation; and the experiences, needs and outcomes of people with recently acquired HIV.

Methods and analysis 

This longitudinal observational study is recruiting participants aged ≥16 years with documented laboratory evidence of HIV seroconversion from clinics in Canada and six European countries. We will analyse data from medical records, self-administered questionnaires, semistructured interviews and participatory photography. We will assess temporal trends in transmitted drug resistance and viral subtype and examine outcomes following early ART initiation. We will investigate patient-reported outcomes, well-being, and experiences of, knowledge of, and attitudes to HIV preventions, including PrEP. We will analyse qualitative data thematically and triangulate quantitative and qualitative findings. As patient public involvement is central to this work, we have convened a community advisory board (CAB) comprising people living with HIV.

Ethics and dissemination 

All respective research ethics committees have approval for data to contribute to international collaborations. Written informed consent is required to take part. A dissemination strategy will be developed in collaboration with CAB and the scientific committee. It will include peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations and accessible summaries of findings on the study’s website, social media and via community organisations.

Link to publication