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external supervisor

Prof Philippe Guerin, Nuffield Department of Medicine


The HIV pandemic remains a major global public health problem, with 38 million people living with HIV in 2020. Global HIV genetic diversity forms a major challenge to the development of an HIV vaccine as well as diagnostic, drug resistance, and viral load assays, which are essential for antiretroviral therapy programmes. HIV diversity also impacts HIV transmission and pathogenicity. 

We previously collected data on nearly 400,000 subtyped HIV samples from 116 countries for the period 1990-2015. This showed that the global distribution of HIV-1 subtypes and recombinants is extremely complex and dynamic. sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of all people living with HIV worldwide and has the greatest genetic diversity of HIV. The number and proportion of HIV recombinants is increasing, and country-level HIV diversity is increasing globally. Global HIV-1 genetic diversity surveillance therefore remains crucial in tackling the pandemic. 

Key references:

Hemelaar et al, Lancet Infectious Diseases,19(2):143-155(2019).

Hemelaar et al, Lancet HIV,7(11):e772-e781(2020).

Hemelaar et al, J Virology,95(2):e01580-20(2021).


The project will encompass collection of global HIV molecular epidemiology data for the period 2016-2021. This will include conducting a living systematic literature review to identify papers reporting on HIV subtype distribution in countries in 2016-2021. In addition, we will engage with an established WHO-UNAIDS network of >200 HIV molecular epidemiology experts to obtain unpublished HIV subtyping data. Data will be assembled in an online REDCap database, which will facilitate downstream analyses.

Analyses may include, but are not limited to:

  • Country-level diversity analysis for 1990-2021.
  • Estimation of regional and global distribution of HIV subtypes and recombinants during 1990-2021.
  • Linkage of global HIV diversity data to transport and accessibility models to investigate the role of infrastructure and human migration in the spread of HIV
  • Analysis to assess the global need for subtype-specific HIV vaccines, including differential vaccination scenarios and cost-benefit analyses.
  • Analysis of associations between HIV variants and transmission routes/risk groups.


It is anticipated that the work will be conducted in Oxford and all necessary facilities, equipment and training, including database, analytic and statistical training, will be provided in Oxford.


A student with a background in medicine, infectious diseases, statistics or global health might suit this project. The project has a broad scope and candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Joris Hemelaar to work out a specific project proposal.