A scientific research center in Siberia said Wednesday that it discovered a new strain of HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — and that it is spreading throughout Russia “at a rapid rate,” RIA Novosti newswire reported today.
The subtype was detected in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk in 2006 and now accounts for more than 50% of new HIV infections in the region, Novosibirsk’s Koltsovo science city said in a statement. The number of HIV-positive people living in the Novosibirsk Region has leaped from about 2,000 in 2007 up to 15,000 in 2012, according to Russia’s Federal AIDS Center.
Natalya Gashnikova, head of the retroviruses department at the Vektor state biotechnology research center at Koltsovo said this might be the worst HIV strain in Russia. RIA reported her saying that the virus spreads much faster than Russia’s current leading HIV strain. This new strain is not limited Siberia. It has also been found in patient lab tests in Chechnya, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the institute said.
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. Fifty-two percent of the HIV-positive people that live across that area are in Russia. The World Bank estimates that in 2020, Russia will lose 20,000 people per month to AIDS. The country has experienced the fastest-spreading HIV/AIDS epidemics in any one country in history, but there remains a lack of effective preventative measures to slow it down—in both schools and in the larger anti-gay society.