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A new fast-spreading HIV variant has been discovered.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) says the newly published research from the Netherlands has revealed the existence of a more transmissible and damaging variant of HIV.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute, was the first to discover this highly virulent variant of the subtype-B of HIV. The study also revealed that the variant has been circulating in the Netherlands for years and remains receptive to HIV treatment.

People living with the newly revealed HIV subtype experience double the rate of immune system decline (CD4 count), have higher HIV viral loads (amount of virus in the blood) and are vulnerable to developing AIDS two to three times faster after diagnosis than if they were living with other strains of the virus.

UNAIDS says the variant damages the immune system, weakening people’s ability to fight everyday infections and diseases much faster than the previous HIV strains. This newly identified variant does not represent a major public health threat but underscores the urgency of speeding up efforts to halt the HIV pandemic.

Eamonn Murphy, the UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director said that 10 million people living with HIV worldwide are not yet on treatment, fueling the continued spread of the virus and potential for further variants.

The HIV pandemic continues to take a life every minute and scientists have long worried about the evolution of new, more transmissible, variants of HIV.


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