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BackgroundIn the last decade, universally available antiretroviral therapy (ART) has led to greatly improved health and survival of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, but new infections continue to appear. The design of effective prevention strategies requires the demographic characterisation of individuals acting as sources of infection, which is the aim of this study.MethodsBetween 2014 and 2018, the HPTN 071 PopART study was conducted to quantify the public health benefits of ART. Viral samples from 7124 study participants in Zambia were deep-sequenced as part of HPTN 071-02 PopART Phylogenetics, an ancillary study. We used these sequences to identify likely transmission pairs. After demographic weighting of the recipients in these pairs to match the overall HIV-positive population, we analysed the demographic characteristics of the sources to better understand transmission in the general population.FindingsWe identified a total of 300 likely transmission pairs. 178 (59·4%) were male to female, with 130 (95% CI 110-150; 43·3%) from males aged 25-40 years. Overall, men transmitted 2·09-fold (2·06-2·29) more infections per capita than women, a ratio peaking at 5·87 (2·78-15·8) in the 35-39 years source age group. 40 (26-57; 13·2%) transmissions linked individuals from different communities in the trial. Of 288 sources with recorded information on drug resistance mutations, 52 (38-69; 18·1%) carried viruses resistant to first-line ART.InterpretationHIV-1 transmission in the HPTN 071 study communities comes from a wide range of age and sex groups, and there is no outsized contribution to new infections from importation or drug resistance mutations. Men aged 25-39 years, underserved by current treatment and prevention services, should be prioritised for HIV testing and ART.FundingNational Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and National Institute of Mental Health.

Original publication




Journal article


The Lancet. Microbe

Publication Date



Pandemic Sciences Institute and Big Data Institute, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


HPTN 071 (PopART) Phylogenetics protocol team, PANGEA consortium