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HIV prevention strategies should include tourists, say study authors

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National HIV prevention strategies should target overseas tourists and other migrants, as well as the general population, suggest the authors of an international study.

Researchers assessed HIV-1 samples from 17 European countries to construct a viral phylogeography - a geographic pattern of genetic information taken from viruses that can be used to track how and when it spread. The samples formed part of two earlier studies, collected between 2002 and 2004, and 1996 and 2002.

The resulting map, published in the online journal Retrovirology, showed that three countries - Austria, Poland and Luxembourg - had no significant exporting migration was observed.

However, Greece, Portugal, Serbia and Spain were a source of HIV-1 to other countries. Notably, the researchers said the virus spread widely from Greece and Spain to seven and five target countries respectively.

Lead researcher Dr Dimitrios Paraskevis, from the University of Athens, said: ‘Popular tourist destinations like Greece, Portugal and Spain probably spread HIV, with tourists infected during their holidays.

‘Viruses move around with travellers - thus health programmes within countries should not only target the national populations, [but at] migrants, travellers and tourists, who are both major sources and targets of HIV,’ he added.

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