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To reduce global HIV-1 incidence, there is a need to understand and disentangle HIV-1 transmission dynamics and to determine the geographic areas and populations that act as hubs or drivers of HIV-1 spread. In Sub-Saharan Africa (sSA), the region with the highest HIV-1 burden, information about such transmission dynamics is sparse. Phylogenetic inference is a powerful method for the study of HIV-1 transmission networks and source attribution. In this review, we assessed available phylogenetic data on mixing between HIV-1 hotspots (geographic areas and populations with high HIV-1 incidence and prevalence) and areas or populations with lower HIV-1 burden in sSA. We searched PubMed and identified and reviewed 64 studies on HIV-1 transmission dynamics within and between risk groups and geographic locations in sSA (published 1995–2021). We describe HIV-1 transmission from both a geographic and a risk group perspective in sSA. Finally, we discuss the challenges facing phylogenetic inference in mixed epidemics in sSA and offer our perspectives and potential solutions to the identified challenges.

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