Rapidly Spreading Variant of HIV Doubles the Rate of Immune System Weakening |

People living with a newly identified subtype experience a doubling of the rate of immune system decline (measured by the level of infection-suppressing CD4 T cells) and have a higher viral load.

They also are at risk of developing AIDS two to three times faster after diagnosis than if they lived with other strains of the virus.

The study also showed that the circulates in the Netherlands for many years and remains treatable.

The study, led by scientists at Oxford University’s Big Data Institute, is the first to report the B subtype of the virus.

The cure still works

According To UNAIDS in a press statement, the discovery highlights the need to “stop the pandemic and reach everyone and reach everyone with testing and treatment.”

The long-standing HIV pandemic continues to claim lives every minute, and scientists have long been concerned about the evolution of new, more contagious variants of the virus.

The newly identified variant does not pose a major public health threat, but highlights the urgency of the UN’s efforts to fight AIDS, according to UNAIDS.

In a statement, Program Deputy Executive Director Eamonn Murphy noted that about 10 million people living with HIV are still not receiving antiretroviral therapy, “fueling the ongoing spread of the virus and the potential for further options.”

“We urgently need to deliver cutting-edge medical innovation in a way that reaches the communities most in need. Whether it’s HIV treatment or COVID-19 vaccines, inequalities in access perpetuate pandemics in a way that harms us all,” he said.

79 million infections

HIV remains deadliest pandemic of our time, UNAIDS said.

Since it was first discovered in the early 1980s, some 79 million people have been infected with the virus, for which there is still no vaccine or cure.

About 36 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the pandemic. and 1.5 million people were first infected in 2020.

Of the 38 million people living with the virus today, 28 million are receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy to keep them alive and healthy and prevent transmission of the virus.

© UNICEF/Francis Amorut

A nurse meets with an HIV-positive patient at a health center in Namayingo, Uganda.

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