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Nigeria has the highest number of AIDS-related deaths in the world. In this study, we characterised the HIV-1 molecular epidemiology by analysing 1442 HIV-1 pol sequences collected 1999-2014 from four geopolitical zones in Nigeria using state-of-the-art maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic analyses. The main circulating forms were the circulating recombinant form (CRF) 02_AG (44% of the analysed sequences), CRF43_02G (16%), and subtype G (8%). Twenty-three percent of the sequences represented unique recombinant forms (URFs), whereof 37 (11%) could be grouped into seven potentially novel CRFs. Bayesian phylodynamic analysis suggested that five major Nigerian HIV-1 sub-epidemics were introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, close to the Nigerian Civil War. The analysis also indicated that the number of effective infections decreased in Nigeria after the introduction of free antiretroviral treatment in 2006. Finally, Bayesian phylogeographic analysis suggested gravity-like dynamics in which virus lineages first emerge and expand within large urban centers such as Abuja and Lagos, before migrating towards smaller rural areas. This study provides novel insight into the Nigerian HIV-1 epidemic and may have implications for future HIV-1 prevention strategies in Nigeria and other severely affected countries.

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Bayes Theorem, Cluster Analysis, Databases, Genetic, Demography, Evolution, Molecular, HIV Infections, HIV-1, Humans, Nigeria, Phylogeny, Phylogeography, Prevalence, Recombination, Genetic, pol Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus