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In Kenya, HIV-1 key populations including men having sex with men (MSM), people who inject drugs (PWID) and female sex workers (FSW) are thought to significantly contribute to HIV-1 transmission in the wider, mostly heterosexual (HET) HIV-1 transmission network. However, clear data on HIV-1 transmission dynamics within and between these groups are limited. We aimed to empirically quantify rates of HIV-1 flow between key populations and the HET population, as well as between different geographic regions to determine HIV-1 'hotspots' and their contribution to HIV-1 transmission in Kenya. We used maximum-likelihood phylogenetic and Bayesian inference to analyse 4058 HIV-1 pol sequences (representing 0.3 per cent of the epidemic in Kenya) sampled 1986-2019 from individuals of different risk groups and regions in Kenya. We found 89 per cent within-risk group transmission and 11 per cent mixing between risk groups, cyclic HIV-1 exchange between adjoining geographic provinces and strong evidence of HIV-1 dissemination from (i) West-to-East (i.e. higher-to-lower HIV-1 prevalence regions), and (ii) heterosexual-to-key populations. Low HIV-1 prevalence regions and key populations are sinks rather than major sources of HIV-1 transmission in Kenya. Targeting key populations in Kenya needs to occur concurrently with strengthening interventions in the general epidemic.

Original publication




Journal article


Virus Evol

Publication Date





HIV-1, key populations, molecular epidemiology, transmission