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New HIV variant: bad news and good

Worrying news: A new variant of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has been detected in the Netherlands and is said to be more infectious than previous variants.😲Scientists say the new variant, called VB, can affect the immune system faster than others and can also speed up the progression to developing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The HI virus causes infection whereas AIDS can seriously damage the immune system.

But there’s good news, too: VB responds to current antiretroviral treatments, provided it is treated during its early stages. The variant was detected in 109 people, 107 of them in the Netherlands, through an ongoing research project that explores HIV variants. There are no reported cases in South Africa and, thanks to the huge strides we’ve made in our response to the virus, we’re well-equipped to deal with it if it does reach our shores. South Africa has the world’s largest antiretroviral programme; we’ve made HUGE strides in treating HIV since those awful days of denialism under Thabo Mbeki. Yay us! 🙌🏽

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 11 February 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.