MOSCOW — Researchers at a scientific research center in Siberia said two weeks ago that it discovered a new strain of HIV in Russia that is spreading at “a rapid rate,” the Moscow Times reports.
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, 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, the statement said, citing Russia’s Federal AIDS Center.
The new strain might be the most virulent form of HIV in Russia, Natalya Gashnikova, head of the retroviruses department at the Vektor state biotechnology research center at Koltsovo, whose specialists discovered it, told the Moscow Times.
She said the virus could spread much faster than Russia’s current leading HIV strain, subtype A(I).
The new strain is not limited to the vast area of Siberia. It has been detected in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, as well as the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the institute said.
Interestingly, the country’s MSM community (men who have sex with men) accounts for a relatively small number of the overall HIV cases. It has been speculated that the country’s unwillingness to address LGBT issues in general means it hasn’t bothered to secure accurate data on its gay community, Cares2.com, an online news portal, reports.