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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Genetic, geographic data gives clear picture of how HIV spread throughout Central and East Africa

Scientists studying biology and geography may seem worlds apart, but together they have answered a question that has defied explanation about the spread of the HIV-1 epidemic in Africa.

Science Daily reports:
Writing in the September issue of AIDS, a research team led by scientists at the University of Florida explained why two subtypes of HIV-1 — the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS — held steady at relatively low levels for more than 50 years in west central Africa before erupting as an epidemic in east Africa in the 1970s.

Essentially, the explanation for the HIV explosion — obscured until now — involves the relative ease with which people can travel from city to city in east Africa as opposed to the difficulties faced by people living in the population centers of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the point where HIV emerged from west central Africa in its spread to the east.

Later, as the epidemic raged in the east, cities in the Democratic Republic of Congo — a vast country almost as big as all of Western Europe — remained disconnected and isolated, explaining why the virus affected only about 5 percent of the country's population, a level that has not changed much since the 1950s. READ MORE

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