The application of HIV molecular epidemiology to public health.
Paraskevis D., Nikolopoulos GK., Magiorkinis G., Hodges-Mameletzis I., Hatzakis A.
HIV is responsible for one of the largest viral pandemics in human history. Despite a concerted global response for prevention and treatment, the virus persists. Thus, urgent public health action, utilizing novel interventions, is needed to prevent future transmission events, critical to eliminating HIV. For public health planning to prove effective and successful, we need to understand the dynamics of regional epidemics and to intervene appropriately. HIV molecular epidemiology tools as implemented in phylogenetic, phylodynamic and phylogeographic analyses have proven to be powerful tools in public health planning across many studies. Numerous applications with HIV suggest that molecular methods alone or in combination with mathematical modelling can provide inferences about the transmission dynamics, critical epidemiological parameters (prevalence, incidence, effective number of infections, Re, generation times, time between infection and diagnosis), or the spatiotemporal characteristics of epidemics. Molecular tools have been used to assess the impact of an intervention and outbreak investigation which are of great public health relevance. In some settings, molecular sequence data may be more readily available than HIV surveillance data, and can therefore allow for molecular analyses to be conducted more easily. Nonetheless, classic methods have an integral role in monitoring and evaluation of public health programmes, and should supplement emerging techniques from the field of molecular epidemiology. Importantly, molecular epidemiology remains a promising approach in responding to viral diseases.