The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Africa is the most affected region by HIV and AIDS in the world. Young women are particularly affected. The numbers show that in 2018, there were 20.6 million people with HIV in eastern and southern Africa and 5 million in western and central Africa. The wide prevalence of HIV is a serious problem on a global level, but even more so in African nations. The problem becomes even bigger with the fact the new strain of HIV has been discovered.
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New strain of HIV
When the term HIV comes to mind, we think of a single virus that weakens the immune system and causes many other complications. But, the truth is that HIV has several subtypes and strains. Just like other viruses, this one can also evolve and mutate over time.
The new strain of HIV is not something scientists discover every day. In fact, for the first time in 19 years, a team of scientists has identified the new strain, which only confirms that fighting HIV is more vital than ever. Their findings, published in the Journal of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, showed that the new strain is the subtype of HIV-1 Group M, subtype L. In other words, scientists discovered a mutation in Group M, the most common type of HIV and viruses from this group is responsible for AIDS crisis on a global level.
The discovery of a mutation seems scary. We immediately think of all sorts of unwanted and horrible scenarios, but there is also a silver lining. You see, early detection of the new strain allows scientists and doctors to contain and study the virus, develop new treatments, and anticipate other mutations. This could help prevent the virus from escalating uncontrollably. Without detection, that would not be possible.
The new strain of HIV was discovered through the usage of next-generation sequencing technology that allowed scientists to build a whole genome at a lower cost and higher speed. Abbott Laboratories, which carried out the research, employed the new technology and upgraded it with new techniques to focus on a portion of the sample. That way, they were able to sequence and complete the genome fully.
HIV is not a death sentence, and, when caught early, the symptoms can be managed as the current treatments are effective. But, the emphasis is placed on prevention through regular testing. Sexually active men and women, especially those with multiple sex partners, should get tested regularly, and thanks to at-home tests, this process is easier than ever. Other things to prevent HIV include using a condom, practicing safe sex, avoiding risky sex, staying away from engaging in sexual intercourse with multiple people.
Scientists have discovered HIV strain, a mutation in Group M, the most widespread type of this virus. The discovery of the new mutation allows scientists to work on the new treatment options and anticipate further strains. There is no reason to panic, scientists say. Make sure you test regularly and practice safe sex to decrease the risk of HIV.