By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com October 20 2013 3:10 PM ET
Just as Russia is making headlines for their opressive treatment of LGBT folks comes more disturbing news: researchers have discovered a new strain of HIV that is is spreading rapidly. According to the Moscow Times, the HIV strain known as 02_AG/A, was "first detected in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk in 2006 and now accounts for more than 50% of new HIV infections in the region."
The number of HIV-positive people living in the Novosibirsk region where it was first discovered has jumped from 2,000 in 2007 to 15,000 in 2012, according to Russia's Federal AIDS Center.
Natalya Gashnikova, who heads the retroviruses department at the Vektor state biotechnology research center at Koltsovo (where the HIV was discovered), told reporters that "the new strain might be the most virulent form of HIV in Russia" and could sperad much faster than country's current leading strain of HIV.
The Times reported that the new strain has also "been detected in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, as well as the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the institute said."
Eastern Europe is in fact one of the regions where HIV infection rates are still rising and research and service organizations are underfunded at best. Activists say the climate of homophobia and transphobia furthered by recent politcal actions are making it worse, in an area with little education, treatment, or testing options available.
No research data has been released about whether this form of HIV responds to traditional antiretroviral medication.