Background and objective: The factors that led to the simultaneous emergence, decades ago, of HIV-1 in central Africa and HIV-2 in West Africa remain unclear. The low HIV-2-associated mortality enables epidemiological assessment of risk factors potentially relevant in the early stages of the epidemic. In Guinea-Bissau, its epicentre, HIV-2 became highly prevalent (approximately 15%) in cohorts of individuals born before 1962, but is now disappearing whereas HIV-1 prevalence is increasing. We sought to verify the hypothesis that parenteral transmission was the key factor in the building-up of the HIV-2 epidemic.
Design: Cross-sectional community survey of 1608 individuals aged > or = 50 years in Bissau.
Methods: Capillary blood was obtained for HIV serology. Associations between HIV-2 (alone or in dual HIV-1/HIV-2 infections) and exposures were measured with crude and adjusted odds ratios (AOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Results: Prevalence of HIV-2 was higher in women (160/1063; 15.1%) than men (45/545; 8.3%, P < 0.001). Among women, excision (AOR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.08-2.18) was independently associated with HIV-2, as were age and being widowed (AOR, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.29-2.74). Among men, HIV-2 was not associated with sexually transmitted infections or transactional sex. In an analysis comprising men and women that was adjusted for age, sex, ethnic group and marital status, HIV-2 was associated with having received injections for the treatment of tuberculosis (AOR, 2.12; 95% CI, 1.11-4.05) or trypanosomiasis (AOR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.03-2.97).
Conclusions: Parenteral transmission through ritual excision and multiple injections during treatment of tuberculosis and trypanosomiasis contributed to the emergence of HIV-2 in Guinea-Bissau.