Scientists in Siberia say they've discovered a new and extremely virulent strain of HIV in Russia.
Announcing their discovery on Oct. 16, researchers at Novosibirk's Koltsovo science city say the HIV subtype, known as 02_AG/A, may be the most virulent form of HIV in the country.
In a report in the Naukograd Press, Koltsovo science city's news site, it's explained that the HIV variant is believed to be capable of spreading at a much faster rate than subtype A(I), which, according to researchers, is Russia's current leading HIV strain.
The new subtype, which researchers say was first detected in the city of Novosibirsk in 2006, is said to be spreading through some parts of Siberia at an alarming rate. In the Novosibirsk area, it is now said to account for more than half of all new HIV infections.
Citing the scientists' statement, RIA Novosti writes that 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."
Outside of Siberia, the subtype also may have been detected in Chechnya and parts of Central Asia, according to the Naukograd Press.
Though rates of HIV infection have been falling worldwide, Eastern Europe and Central Asia remain the only regions on the planet where HIV prevalence is clearly "on the rise," says the United Nations. According to RIA Novosti, 52 percent "of the HIV-positive people that live across that area are in Russia."
The U.N. says that intravenous drug use and sexual transmission remain the main driving forces behind the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Lack of funding for HIV prevention and low coverage of HIV treatment services are fueling the high rates of AIDS-related deaths and rise of HIV infections as well, says a 2012 U.N. fact sheet on the issue.