A new HIV variant
VB
More likely to develop AIDS
The UN weighs in
In the Netherlands
109 individuals
500 mutations
The good news
The bad news
Undetectable = Untransmittable
Covid-19 comparisons
Delta reminder
Misinformation
Remnants of a larger variant
Over 20 years
Prevention first
A 40-year-old pandemic
AIDS
Stigma
Red ribbon martyrs
Vigilant
New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(1/21)
A new HIV variant

Science, the official publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, published an alarming study on February 3, 2022: “A highly virulent variant of HIV-1 circulating in the Netherlands.”

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(2/21)
VB

This new variant has been labeled VB by epidemiologist Chris Wymant and his research team from the University of Oxford, who are behind the study.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(3/21)
More likely to develop AIDS

According to Wymant, the new strain increases viral particles in the blood up to five times and makes those infected more likely to develop AIDS.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(4/21)
The UN weighs in

The Joint United Nations HIV/AIDS Program states that those infected with the VB variant face “double the rate of immune system decline”.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(5/21)
In the Netherlands

The strain was detected in 109 individuals living in The Netherlands, of which 82% were men.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(6/21)
109 individuals

“Age, sex, suspected mode of transmission, and place of birth for the aforementioned 109 individuals were typical for HIV-positive people in the Netherlands”, documents the University of Oxford study.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(7/21)
500 mutations

Wymant's research reveals that the HIV VB variant contains 500 mutations in comparison to the original virus. Scientists speculate that the virus may be evolving to counteract current HIV medications.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(8/21)
The good news

The good news is that current treatments such as PrEP can effectively fight this new strain. Though, it's still important to keep an eye on the evolution of VB and any new variants that might develop.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(9/21)
The bad news

However, the discovery of this new variant is scientific proof that viruses do not always decay and become less harmful, but that they can adapt and evolve into something worse.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(10/21)
Undetectable = Untransmittable

Current HIV treatments not only help to delay or avoid the condition to develop into something more serious. They also lower the viral load of those who are positive to the point that it is virtually untransmittable.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(11/21)
Covid-19 comparisons

Comparisons with Covid-19 have been inevitable, particularly among those who hoped that the power of the coronavirus would diminish with time. This HIV variant is a reminder that this is not always the case.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(12/21)
Delta reminder

However, experts point out that such a case has already happened with the coronavirus: the Delta variant was more infectious and potentially more deadly. However, preventive measures and vaccination managed to keep it at bay.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(13/21)
Misinformation

However, another type of virus has also been spreading: Rumors. Reuters reports that some people on social media have tried to link this new HIV strain with Covid-19. This can be easily debunked.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(14/21)
Remnants of a larger variant

The research published by Science reveals that these new findings are probably the remnants of a larger variant that, thanks to treatments, has been dying out.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(15/21)
Over 20 years

It is believed, according to the study, that this more damaging and infectious variant appeared in the 1990s but has been diminishing in numbers since around the year 2000. Two decades before Covid-19 first was detected.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(16/21)
Prevention first

What is true is that preventive measures such as protection during sex, appropriate medication, and periodical testing are a priority. Modern-day health services have many tools at their disposal to fight the virus, even before an infection occurs.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(17/21)
A 40-year-old pandemic

If it wasn't for modern antiretroviral treatments, the VB variant would be a catastrophe. The United Nations calls The HIV pandemic the “deadliest in our time”, with over 36 million casualties in the span of four decades.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(18/21)
AIDS

HIV is believed to have been transmitted by chimpanzees to humans in Africa in the early 20th century. The first well-documented case in humans occurred in the Belgian Congo in 1959. However, it wasn't until the early 80s when AIDS was detected spreading around the globe.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(19/21)
Stigma

Early bouts of AIDS in the 80s were ignored by many governments, such as the Reagan administration in the US, since the novel disease was regarded as something mainly affecting homosexuals, sex workers, and substance abusers.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(20/21)
Red ribbon martyrs

Years of protest and activism have managed to get rid of the stigmatization and create awareness around HIV/AIDS. However, countless lives have been lost in the meantime, including talented individuals such as actor Rock Hudson, musician Freddie Mercury, or artist Keith Haring.

New highly virulent HIV variant discovered
(21/21)
Vigilant

The discovery of this new HIV variant, while not considered a cause of concern, is a reminder to be vigilant about the virus. Despite all the progress made, the UN highlights that there are still over 10 million HIV-positive individuals lacking any sort of treatment for their condition.

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