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HIV Transmission Networks in the San Diego-Tijuana Border Region

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Background: HIV sequence data can be used to reconstruct local transmission networks. Along international borders, like the San Diego-Tijuana region, understanding the dynamics of HIV transmission across reported risks, racial/ethnic groups, and geography can help direct effective prevention efforts on both sides of the border. Methods: We gathered sociodemographic, geographic, clinical, and viral sequence data from HIV infected individuals participating in ten studies in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. Phylogenetic and network analysis was performed to infer putative relationships between HIV sequences. Correlates of identified clusters were evaluated and spatiotemporal relationships were explored using Bayesian phylogeographic analysis. Findings: After quality filtering, 843 HIV sequences with associated demographic data and 263 background sequences from the region were analyzed, and 138 clusters were inferred (2-23 individuals). Overall, the rate of clustering did not differ by ethnicity, residence, or sex, but bisexuals were less likely to cluster than heterosexuals or men who have sex with men (p=0.043), and individuals identifying as white (p≤0.01) were more likely to cluster than other races. Clustering individuals were also 3.5 years younger than non-clustering individuals (p<0.001). Although the sampled San Diego and Tijuana epidemics were phylogenetically compartmentalized, five clusters contained individuals residing on both sides of the border. Interpretation: This study sampled ~7% of HIV infected individuals in the border region, and although the sampled networks on each side of the border were largely separate, there was evidence of persistent bidirectional cross-border transmissions that linked risk groups, thus highlighting the importance of the border region as a "melting pot" of risk groups. Funding: NIH, VA, and Pendleton Foundation.

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