Untreated HIV-1 infection progresses through acute and asymptomatic stages to AIDS. Although each of the three stages has well-known clinical, virologic, and immunologic characteristics, much less is known of the molecular mechanisms underlying each stage. In this study, we report lymphatic tissue microarray analyses, revealing for the first time stage-specific patterns of gene expression during HIV-1 infection. We show that although there is a common set of key genes with altered expression throughout all stages, each stage has a unique gene expression signature. The acute stage is most notably characterized by increased expression of hundreds of genes involved in immune activation, innate immune defenses (e.g., RIG-1, MDA-5, TLR7 and TLR8, PKR, APOBEC3B, 3F, 3G), adaptive immunity, and in the proapoptotic Fas-Fas ligand pathway. Yet, quite strikingly, the expression of nearly all acute stage genes return to baseline levels in the asymptomatic stage, accompanying partial control of infection. This transition from acute to asymptomatic stage is tied to increased expression of a diverse array of immunosuppressive genes (e.g., CLEC12B, ILT4, galectin-3, CD160, BCMA, FGL2, LAG3, GPNMB). In the AIDS stage, decreased expression of numerous genes involved in T cell signaling identifies genes contributing to T cell dysfunction. These common and stage-specific gene expression signatures identify potential molecular mechanisms underlying the host response and the slow, natural course of HIV-1 infection.