New HIV strain found in Russia
New HIV strain found in Russia

A scientific research center in Siberia announced it has discovered a new strain of HIV in Russia and that the virus is spreading “at a rapid rate.”

News agency RIA Novosti reports that 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.

HIV, a retrovirus that causes slow failure of the immune system, has two types: HIV-1 and HIV-2. The new strain is a sub-type of the more virulent HIV-1.

According to the United Nations, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the only regions in the world where the HIV infection is clearly on the rise. Fifty-two percent of the HIV-positive people that live across that area are in Russia.

The number of HIV-positive people living in the region where the new strain was discovered has leaped from about 2,000 in 2007 up to 15,000 in 2012, according to Russia’s Federal AIDS Center.

02_AG/A might be the most virulent form of HIV in Russia, said Natalya Gashnikova, head of the retroviruses department at the Vektor state biotechnology research center at Koltsovo, whose specialists discovered the strain.

HIV remains poorly understood in Russia and, according to experts at Koltsovo, research into the spread and properties of new HIV strains is underfunded.

Russian schools generally offer little or no sex education, a factor that is believed to contribute to a high HIV infection rate from lack of awareness about sexually transmitted diseases, according to RIA Novosti.

Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s rights advocate, said in September that he opposed teaching teenagers about sexual health in school, adding that Russian literature is “the best sex education there is.”

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