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Research in the Congo Basin is Filling in Important Pieces of the Complex HIV Puzzle

There have been tremendous gains towards reaching the United Nations 90-90-90 targets to end HIV as a public health threat. The aim was that, by 2020, 90% of people with HIV would know their status, 90% of those would be on treatment, and 90% would have suppressed viral loads. But the epidemic is still far from over. One of the main reasons is the diversity that the HIV group M (HIV-1M) virus exhibits. This affects both vaccine and cure development. Currently, there are four groups of HIV-1 (group M, N, O and P). Each originated from an independent transmission from a non-human primate to a human. HIV-1 group M (HIV-1M) is today responsible for the global AIDS pandemic. It can be divided into subtypes and numerous recombinant forms called clades or strains. Research looks at the different steps that HIV-1M took when it first got into humans to become one of the major circulating viruses in the world. A lot of my work focuses on the Congo Basin. This is a region in the centre of the continent that spans six countries and is made up predominantly of equatorial rain forests.