HIV likely first entered the United States from Haiti in about 1969, more than a decade before the first AIDS cases were reported in 1981, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
'Haiti was the stepping stone the virus took when it left central Africa and started its sweep around the world,' said Michael Worobey, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona-Tucson. 'Once the virus got to the US, then it just moved explosively around the world,' he said.
Worobey and an international team of investigators conducted genetic analyses on archived blood samples from Haitian AIDS patients living in the United States early in the epidemic. Using the genes, the researchers created a family tree for the virus and compared it with genetic sequences of AIDS patients from other countries. Based on the team's calculations, there is a greater than 99 percent probability that HIV's route went from Africa to Haiti to the United States.
The timeline suggests one or more infected Haitian immigrants first brought HIV to the United States. Worobey noted that Haiti did not become a popular destination for US sex tourists until the late 1970s.
Previously, research showed HIV had made the leap from chimpanzee to human in central Africa around 1930. Many Haitians worked temporarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of several central African nations where HIV has been established since the 1930s, after it declared independence from Belgium in 1960.
Early in the epidemic, the number of AIDS infections among Haitians living in the United States was 27 times higher than among the general population.
Agence France Presse
Date of Publication
Disease Transmission Haitians HIV/AIDS Studies or Surveys
Disclaimer: NPIN provides this information as a public service only. The views and information provided about the materials, funding opportunities, and organizations do not necessarily state or reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, or NPIN.