Evolution and Diversity of HIV-1 in Africa – a Review
- Cite this article as:
- Papathanasopoulos, M.A., Hunt, G.M. & Tiemessen, C.T. Virus Genes (2003) 26: 151. doi:10.1023/A:1023435429841
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The HIV/AIDS pandemic represents a major development crisis for the African continent, which is the worst affected region in the world. Currently, almost 30 of the 42 million people infected with HIV worldwide live in Africa. AIDS in humans is caused by two lentiviruses, HIV-1 and HIV-2, which entered the human population by zoonotic transmissions from at least two different African primate species. Extensive phylogenetic analyses of partial and full-length genome sequences have helped to gain insights into the evolutionary biology and population dynamics of HIV. One of the major characteristics of HIV is its rapid evolution, which has resulted in substantial genetic diversity amongst different isolates, the majority of which are represented in Africa. Genetic variability of HIV and any consequent phenotypic variation poses a significant challenge to disease control and surveillance in different geographic regions of Africa. This review focuses on the origins and evolution of HIV, current classification and diversity of HIV isolates in Africa and provides an extensive account of the geographic distribution of HIV types, groups, and subtypes in each of the 49 African countries. Numerous epidemiological studies have provided a picture of HIV distribution patterns in most countries in Africa, and these show increasing evidence of the importance of HIV-1 recombinants. In particular, this review highlights that our current understanding of HIV distribution in Africa is incomplete and inadequately represents the diversity of the virus, and underscores the need for ongoing surveillance.