Objectives: We previously reported HIV-1 infection in Warao Amerindians from Venezuela. The aim of this study was to evaluate the extent and the dynamic of HIV-1 dissemination in eight Warao communities.
Design and Setting: HIV-1 infection was evaluated in 576 Warao Amerindians from the Orinoco Delta. Partial HIV-1 pol sequences were analyzed to reconstruct the spatiotemporal and demographic dynamics of the epidemic.
Results: HIV-1 antibodies were present in 9.55% of Warao Amerindians, ranging from 0 to 22%. A significantly higher prevalence was found in men (15.6%) compared with women (2.6%), reaching up to 35% in men from one community. All but one isolates were classified as subtype B. Warao's HIV-1 subtype-B epidemic resulted from a single viral introduction at around the early 2000s. After an initial phase of slow growth, the subtype B started to spread at a fast rate (0.8/year) following two major routes of migration within the communities.
Conclusion: A dramatic high prevalence was documented in almost all the communities of Warao Amerindians from the Orinoco Delta tested for HIV-1 infection. This epidemic resulted from the dissemination of a single HIV-1 subtype B founder strain introduced about 10 years ago and its size is probably doubling every year, creating a situation that can be devastating for this vulnerable Amerindian group.