New And Virulent HIV Strain Tearing Through Russia

Russia has been suffering an AIDS crisis for over a decade and it keeps getting worse. A scientific research center in Siberia announced this week that a new strain of HIV is spreading throughout the country “at a rapid rate.”

The subtype, known as 02_AG/A, was first detected in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk in 2006 and now accounts for more than 50 percent of new HIV infections in the region, the research center said in a statement.

The number of HIV-positive people living in the Novosibirsk Region has increased from about 2,000 in 2007 up to an alarming 15,000 in 2012.

Natalya Gashnikova, head of the retroviruses department at the Vektor state biotechnology research center at Koltsovo, said the virus spreads much faster than Russia’s current leading HIV strain and might be the “most virulent” the country has ever seen.

This new strain is not limited to Siberia, though. Researchers claim it has also been found in patient lab tests in Chechnya, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

According to the United Nations, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the only regions in the world where the HIV infection is on the rise. Russia in particular has experienced one of the fastest-spreading HIV/AIDS epidemics in any nation’s history. In a country of 143 million people, roughly one million are HIV-positive. The World Bank estimates that in 2020, Russia will lose 20,000 people per month to AIDS.

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