New Highly Virulent Strain Of HIV Emerges In Russia

NovRussia just cannot catch a break. As if the anti-gay laws and Olympics controversies weren't enough, now a new strain of HIV, dubbed 02_AG/A, is spreading like wildfire in that country. First discovered in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk (located in the Novosibirsk Oblast highlighted at right) in 2006, 02_AG/A now accounts for over 50% of new HIV infections in the region, and since its discovery the number of infections jumped a jaw-dropping 750% from 2,000 cases in 2007 to 15,000 cases in 2012.

The virus simply seems to be more virulent, not more deadly or resistant to treatment, but Russia's current social climate could make such a rapidly transmissible virus even worse. HIV research is underfunded as are treatment and testing options, and the political posturing around homophobia is making things worse. Additionally, sex education in the country is abysmal on the level of the most conservative of red states. The Moscow Times quoted Pavel Astakhov, Russia's children's rights advocate, as saying in September that he opposed teaching teenagers about sexual health in school, adding that Russian literature is "the best sex education there is."


  1. Rob Tisinai says

    “The virus simply seems to be more virulent, not more deadly or resistant to treatment…

    That statement contradicts itself.

  2. redball says

    Rob, (if I’m recalling my epidemiology training correctly) “virulence” simply means how transmissible or infectious it is–i.e., how easily does it pass from person to person.

    That’s very different from how deadly it is or how resistant to treatment it is.

  3. *****overTX says

    It certainly would be interesting to know how many of those infected profess to being heterosexual.

  4. Pete N SFO says

    I find myself wondering what could be done w/ the web to get the word out to people since their gov’t would love to ignore the issue.

    Do the people they need to reach even have regular access to the web? So frustrating that they seem to embrace the brutality of their own ignorance.

  5. Aepol1 says

    Yeah, remember when the last swine flu outbreak happened it only took a day for the virus to get to my town in CT when a group of vacationers came back from Mexico. The virus is almost certainly here already.

  6. Scootsman says

    We are back to cold war, the liberty so called of the west vs the control of living of the east

  7. bandanajack says

    given the enormitty of the addiction problem in russia and the so called satellite countries, this oubreak is likely to affect far more than the gay community, and they will need all the help the west can give them…

  8. emjayay says

    What Bandana said. Besides all the gay and otherwise sex related stuff mentioned in the post, everyone who isn’t a superwealthy oligarch is shooting some kind of drug in that lovely country. Gay people however, are the big moral threat.

  9. Brian says

    Christian Walters,

    Stop trying to weave HIV into the Russian gay rights battle. HIV has got nothing to do with sexual orientation but everything to do with being promiscuous.

  10. MrRoboto says

    Russian lit is the best sex education there is? Kids, don’t use a condom, throw yourself under a train instead.

    With apologies for being so glib on such a serious & frightening topic.

  11. MrRoboto says

    Russian lit is the best sex education there is? Kids, don’t use a condom, throw yourself under a train instead.

    With apologies for being so glib on such a serious & frightening topic.

  12. redball says


    Not quite. It’s well-established that stigmatization and discrimination against sex workers and the queer community drive those communities underground, making them a lot less likely to seek health care including prevention and treatment for HIV–which only fuels the epidemic.

  13. Bill Michael says

    I have read before that “experts” say the human race is way overdue for a “die-off” on a massive scale.

  14. redball says


    Huh? No. Try harder. All I’m saying is that many societies stigmatize the two–which is terrible enough, but when combined with HIV transmission can also fuel an epidemic.

    The similarities end there.

  15. Brian says

    There is no virulent strain of HIV. In fact, HIV is a mild virus that can be easily controlled. This ‘virulent strain’ notion was invented by a pathetic and desperate gay community with no respect for the truth.

  16. says

    As others have pointed out, it’s not just sex (with lack of condom use) that’s a problem in Russia–massive intravenous drug issues combined with prison populations, poverty, isolation, government stupidity and denial … All of which serve as breeding grounds for HIV transmission.

    Speaking of stupidity and denial–you never disappoint, Jason (I mean Brian etc.).

  17. DannyEastVillage says

    Poor Brian. He’s so confused about so many things. And poor Russians – they’re repeatedly victimized by their own leadership (it’s as if they have Republican one-party-rule) and now they’re peddling lies that are going to cost the lives of many of their children. And this strain of HIV may very well be easily passed around in heterosexual contact as it has been in Africa. No need to identify it categorically with gay sex.

  18. Brian says

    Oh, please, we all know that gay men enjoy being linked to HIV. A lot of you see it as a mark of respect, of being special. You enjoy – and cultivate – the idea that a virus has chosen you as its victims. You are ‘the chosen ones’.

    In fact, HIV didn’t choose you. You – yes, you – chose it.. You created the very environments that were conducive to STD’s spreading like wildfire.

  19. Mike says

    Poor BRIAN my left hoof DANNYEASTVILLAGE!!! (Do not care what he may say to me.) He is simply a jerk on an astronomical scale! What is really sad is that others will risk and in FAR TOO MANY CASES lose their live do to listening to his idiotic ideas on HIV and AIDS . . .

  20. says

    @Danny: As it already is–HIV in Siberia is very much a heterosexual problem. This strain will presumably also be. One can easily imagine the government, however, both scapegoating gay people and leaving them out of prevention efforts, if they have any.

  21. dommyluc says

    I can recall reading an article in Harpers Magazine years ago about the rampant spread of HIV through the Soviet Union and how ignorance, religion, and homophobia are making a disaster impossible to stop, and since – like in Africa and Asia – the infections are mostly among straights, they can’t blame the evil gays for this one. The tragic thing is, many anti-gay politicians and religious leaders in Russia will probably die of AIDS but the public will never know because the tyrannical heads of the Russian government and the Orthodox church will brutally cover it up, as they will in Scott Lively’s Africa. There will not be a Rock Hudson moment there. I wish I could say I feel sorry for the people there, but I can’t. We had to deal with our ignorant (read: REAGAN) government, and they’ll have to deal with theirs.

  22. renovato says
    The above paper refers to this viral strain in west Africa – it is dated 2002 !
    It is long and detailed but gives a demonstration of why HIV is so difficult to combat and to produce an effective vaccine.
    The suggestion is that this strain is transmitted more easily within the hetro-sexual population and amongst iv drug users.

  23. redball says

    Dommyluc, so just because the US had a huge AIDS epidemic, you cannot feel sympathy for Russians going through the same? Wow. Your mind is a terrifying place if that is true.

  24. Paul R says

    Wow some of you just can’t stop responding to trolls spouting mindless crap and giving them attention they so richly don’t deserve.

  25. Michael says

    Seems a bit odd the most vocal anti gay country is having this happen.

    Would be nice to get more info, ie does this mean we can now more easily catch it from oral, etc

  26. Jonathan says

    It’s more infectious, not more virulent. More virulent implies more potent, more deadly and more impervious to treatment.

  27. Kevin says

    This is a situation where science reporting in the lay media can be confusing. In a biology context, virulence refers specifically to how infectious the pathogen is. The statement in the article is, in fact, accurate. Any other colloquial definition of the word virulence (I don’t care what says) is inaccurate in this context.

    Russia has a massive injecting drug population. I have read articles about teenager sharing heroin needles the way American teenager may pass around marijuana at a party. Russia has many risk factors it needs to address for it’s public health.

  28. jamal49 says

    No mention if the infections are rising among gay people or straight people. Such data matters. From what I understand from previous statistics, HIV infections are higher among heterosexuals, particularly intravenous drug users. HIV is never a “gay” problem, but considering the rampant state-sponsored and Russian Orthodox Church-sponsored homophobia, this does NOT bode well for Russia’s very persecuted LGBT community. I expect that once the panic sets in, LGBT people will be rounded up and set apart from society at large. This will happen.

  29. Jonathan says

    This is the scientific definition:

    a. Extremely infectious, malignant, or poisonous. Used of a disease or toxin.
    b. Capable of causing disease by breaking down protective mechanisms of the host. Used of a pathogen.

    So WRONG.

  30. Donny says

    Unfortunately the English translation of the source article in the Moscow Times is ambiguous, describing the new strain of HIV both as “more infectious” and “more virulent”, even though these words are NOT synonymous. The article however also says that the strain is no more deadly or resistant to standard treatments; this is inconsistent with a description of the strain as “virulent”, which is defined in Merriam-Webster as “marked by a rapid, severe, and destructive course”. What I suspect is that the Russian word for “infectious” was mistranslated as “virulent” from the original Russian source quote.

  31. Brian says

    There was never a huge AIDS epidemic. AIDS was a form of propaganda put out by the UN and the gay community. The UN wanted money for Africa and gay men wanted to blame their promiscuity on a virus.

  32. Matteo says

    Novosibirsk has always been known as a city of universities and think tanks. When support dries up in cities that survive off funding, you can find a dramatic increase in drug use with shared syringes. I wonder if something like “krokodil” or other needle related drugs are the cause? Sad to see a strain like this.

  33. ratbastard says

    Dirty needles, drug addiction, and the sex trade, better known ad prostitution,female and male. HIV infections in Russia are most likely caused primarily by all the above. And of course abysmal healthcare and poverty.

  34. gr8guyca says

    I have a different take on this: it might create an excuse for Putin to test and isolate gay people in Russia under the guise of “disease control.” He could say that there is a health emergency and the only way to stop it is to put the gay population in isolation. In other words, it’s an excuse to require gay people to be publicly identified or even quarantined. Could gay people be rounded up and sent to “health safety camps” in Siberia? Well, not until after the Olympics.

  35. Greg says

    Insofr as it’s seually transmiited, sounds like they need a programme of universal, compulsory male circumcision.

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