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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Mar 29; 91(7): 2407–2414.

Population migration and the spread of types 1 and 2 human immunodeficiency viruses.


Over 14 million people are estimated to be infected with the human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV), with nearly three-fourths of the infected persons residing in developing countries. One factor responsible for dissemination of both HIV-1 and HIV-2 worldwide was the intense migration of individuals, from rural to urban centers with subsequent return migration and internationally due to civil wars, tourism, business purposes, and the drug trade. In sub-Saharan Africa, between 1960 and 1980, urban centers with more than 500,000 inhabitants increased from 3 to 28, and more than 75 military coups occurred in 30 countries. The result was a massive migration of rural inhabitants to urban centers concomitant with the spread of HIV-1 to large population centers. With the associated demographic, economic, and social changes, an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV-1 was ignited. Migratory patterns were also responsible for the spread of endemic HIV-2 to neighboring West African countries and eventually to Europe, the Americans, and India. Although Southeast Asia was the last region in which HIV-1 was introduced, it has the greatest potential for rapid spread due to population density and inherent risk behaviors. Thus, the migration of poor, rural, and young sexually active individuals to urban centers coupled with large international movements of HIV-infected individuals played a prominent role in the dissemination of HIV globally. The economic recession has aggravated the transmission of HIV by directly increasing the population at risk through increased urban migration, disruption of rural families and cultural values, poverty, and prostitution and indirectly through a decrease in health care provision. Consequently, social and economic reform as well as sexual behavior education need to be intensified if HIV transmission is to be controlled.

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