HIV type 2 epidemic in Spain: challenges and missing opportunities

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Abstract

HIV type 2 (HIV-2) is a neglected virus despite estimates of 1–2 million people infected worldwide. HIV-2 is less efficiently transmitted than HIV-1 by sex and from mother to child. Although AIDS may develop in HIV-2 carriers, it takes longer than in HIV-1-infected patients. In contrast with HIV-1 infection, there is no global pandemic caused by HIV-2, as the virus is largely confined to West Africa. In a less extent and due to socioeconomic ties and wars, HIV-2 is prevalent in Portugal and its former colonies in Brazil, India, Mozambique and Angola. Globally, HIV-2 infections are steadily declining over time. A total of 338 cases of HIV-2 infection had been reported at the Spanish HIV-2 registry until December 2016, of whom 63% were men. Overall 72% were sub-Saharan Africans, whereas 16% were native Spaniards. Dual HIV-1 and HIV-2 coinfection was found in 9% of patients. Heterosexual contact was the most likely route of HIV-2 acquisition in more than 90% of cases. Roughly one-third presented with CD4+ cell counts less than 200 cells/μl and/or AIDS clinical events. Plasma HIV-2 RNA was undetectable at baseline in 40% of patients. To date, one-third of HIV-2 carriers have received antiretroviral therapy, using integrase inhibitors 32 individuals. New diagnoses of HIV-2 in Spain have remained stable since 2010 with an average of 15 cases yearly. Illegal immigration from Northwestern African borders accounts for over 75% of new HIV-2 diagnoses. Given the relatively large community of West Africans already living in Spain and the continuous flux of immigration from endemic regions, HIV-2 infection either alone or as coinfection with HIV-1 should be excluded once in all HIV-seroreactive persons, especially when showing atypical HIV serological profiles, immunovirological disconnect (CD4+ cell count loss despite undetectable HIV-1 viremia) and/or high epidemiological risks (birth in or sex partners from endemic regions).

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