with the aim of mapping their expansion in the world during the last 50 years and marking the most significant patterns of spread. “The history of HIV up to its arrival in the US was already known. What happened after that, however, was not clear. We wanted to see how HIV spread throughout the Western world,” explains Dr. Gkikas Magiorkinis of the Department in Zoology at the University of Oxford (UK) and co-lead author of the study. The result is a pattern that appears to reflect the post-WWII geopolitical landscape – that is, the rise and fall of the Iron Curtain – and the traditional links between countries as a result of European colonialism. Thus, HIV-1 spread along specific migratory routes that coincide with the geopolitical factors that have affected human activity during the last 50 years, such as migration,
tourism and international trade. Bosnia and Herzegovina According to Roger Paredes, an IrsiCaixa researcher who participated in the study, these results “demonstrate once again that epidemics do not understand borders. Therefore, if we want to end AIDS we will also need to act on a global scale, especially in the countries of low income where the majority of HIV-infected people live and where drug-resistant viruses are currently being transmitted. ” Connections between countries The work shows that the virus traveled from North America to Western Europe on different occasions, while Central and Eastern Europe remained isolated for most of the start of the epidemic. Dimitrios Paraskevi, co-lead author of the study and adjunct professor in the Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics at the University of Athens (Greece),
adds that “a surprising finding is the clear separation between Eastern and Western Europe in the early days of the virus, which probably has to do with the political situation on the continent. The different strains of Eastern and Western Europe connected during the 1990s, when migratory movements were less restricted. ” Looking at Europe in detail, the study shows that the UK, France and Switzerland exchanged viral strains more often with non-European countries than with Europeans, and that Poland and the Czech Republic are the eastern countries that have been most connected to Western Europe. In the case of Poland, it could be because it was the first country to cut its ties with the Eastern Bloc, while the case of the Czech Republic was due to its geographical location, in the center of the continent.