Current models suggest that during human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission virions are selected that use the CCR5 chemokine receptor on macrophages and/or dendritic cells. A gradual evolution to CXCR4 chemokine receptor use causes a shift in the proportion of productively infected cells to the CD4 cell population. Productively infected cells during acute and early infection in lymphoid tissue were assessed, as well as the impact of productive infection on the T cell population in 21 persons who had biopsies performed on days 2-280 after symptoms of acute HIV-1 seroconversion. Even in the earliest stages of infection, most productively infected cells were T lymphocytes. There were sufficient infected cells in lymphoid tissue (LT) to account for virus production and virus load in plasma. Despite the relatively high frequency of productively infected cells in LT, the impact on the size of the T cell population in LT at this stage was minor.