A Deadly Disease Gets Even Deadlier

We know AIDS is deadly. Thirty-five million people have died from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome since scientists discovered it in 1981. Just as many people now have HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. That’s the virus that causes AIDS.

Now there’s an even deadlier version of the virus, known as HIV A3/O2. The recently discovered strain is a cross between two versions common in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. A new study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases reports that the new strain is almost 3 times as likely to lead to AIDS and AIDS-related death as version A3.

The progression to AIDS also appears to occur faster with HIV A3/O2—between 5 and 8 years. The times ranges for the two “parent” strains are about 6 to 9 years and 7 to 11 years.

“Recombinants seem to be more vigorous and more aggressive than the strains from which they developed,” lead study author Angelica Palm notes in the press release announcing the study. She’s a doctoral student at Lund University.

The strain has not yet reached the United States. Nonetheless, global travel and other factors suggest it won’t just stay in West Africa.

The development of a more deadly strain is not necessarily a surprise. Viruses mutate by nature.

Nonetheless, the new discovery is a wake-up call. The world needs effective HIV vaccines now more than ever. While we’ve made enormous strides since 1981, the fight is far from over.

World AIDS Day is December 1. Despite all the din about holiday shopping, take time out to remember the people who have been affected by HIV. Refresh your knowledge with the latest facts about HIV and AIDS. Then Act Aware and spread the word.

HIV and AIDS won’t go away by themselves. The more we all get involved, the stronger the world’s chances are of dealing with the disease.

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