The newly-discovered strain belongs to the same sub-family of the virus responsible for the pandemic that began in 1981 in Sub-Saharan Africa, spread around the globe and has killed 32 million people.
It belongs to Group M of the virus and was identified in three people in the Democratic Republic of Congo by scientists at Abbott Labs, which makes HIV diagnostic tests.
The family of viruses is still the one that most commonly infects humans.
Although it may represent an evolution of the virus, the new HIV strain contains the necessary similarities to previously discovered Group M ones to still be diagnosed and treated using existing methods.
But the discovery of this strain – and all others of HIV – could be a step forward in their understanding of how the virus evolves, how to diagnose and treat it and to the development of a potential vaccine to end the pandemic for good.