In this study we date the introduction of HIV-2 into the human population and estimate the epidemic history of HIV-2 subtype A in Guinea-Bissau, the putative geographic origin of HIV-2. The evolutionary history of the simian immunodeficiency virussooty mangabey/HIV-2 lineage was reconstructed by using available database sequences with known sampling dates, and a timescale for this history was calculated by using maximum likelihood methods. The date of the most recent common ancestor of HIV-2 subtype A strains was estimated to be 1940 ± 16 and that of B strains was estimated to be 1945 ± 14. In addition we used coalescent theory to estimate the past population dynamics of HIV-2 subtype A in a rural population of Guinea-Bissau. Parametric and nonparametric estimates of the effective number of infections through time were obtained for an equal sample of gag, pol, and env sequences. Our estimates of the epidemic history of HIV-2 subtype A in Guinea-Bissau show a transition from constant size to rapid exponential growth around 1955-1970. Our analysis provides evidence for a zoonotic transfer of HIV-2 during the first half of the 20th century and an epidemic initiation in Guinea-Bissau that coincides with the independence war (1963-1974), suggesting that war-related changes in sociocultural patterns had a major impact on the HIV-2 epidemic.