The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the Americas and beyond

M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Andrew Rambaut, Gabriela Wlasiuk, Thomas J. Spira, Arthur E. Pitchenik, Michael Worobey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

200 Scopus citations

Abstract

HIV-1 group M subtype B was the first HIV discovered and is the predominant variant of AIDS virus in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa. However, the circumstances of its origin and emergence remain unresolved. Here we propose a geographic sequence and time line for the origin of subtype B and the emergence of pandemic HIV/AIDS out of Africa. Using HIV-1 gene sequences recovered from archival samples from some of the earliest known Haitian AIDS patients, we find that subtype B likely moved from Africa to Haiti in or around 1966 (1962-1970) and then spread there for some years before successfully dispersing elsewhere. A "pandemic" clade, encompassing the vast majority of non-Haitian subtype B infections in the United States and elsewhere around the world, subsequently emerged after a single migration of the virus out of Haiti in or around 1969 (1966-1972). Haiti appears to have the oldest HIV/AIDS epidemic outside sub-Saharan Africa and the most genetically diverse subtype B epidemic, which might present challenges for HIV-1 vaccine design and testing. The emergence of the pandemic variant of subtype B was an important turning point in the history of AIDS, but its spread was likely driven by ecological rather than evolutionary factors. Our results suggest that HIV-1 circulated cryptically in the United States for ≈12 years before the recognition of AIDS in 1981.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18566-18570
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume104
Issue number47
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 20 2007

Keywords

  • Archival
  • Evolution
  • Haiti
  • Pandemic
  • Phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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