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AIDS status & challenges of the epidemic

2. What are the worldwide trends in the HIV/AIDS epidemic?

  • 2.1 How many people are affected worldwide?
  • 2.2 How has the epidemic evolved in heavily affected regions?
  • 2.3 How has the epidemic evolved in less affected regions?

2.1 How many people are affected worldwide?

At the end of 2005, about 38.6 (32*) million people were living with HIV worldwide. That year, 4.1 (2.9*) million became newly infected and 2.8 (2.2*) million died because of AIDS. Thus, in absolute terms, the number of people living with AIDS continues to rise because the world population is growing and because antiretroviral drugs help people with HIV live longer.

In relative terms, however, the proportion of people among the world population who become infected with HIV each year (HIV incidence) is stabilizing and the proportion of adults living with HIV (HIV prevalence) is levelling off at about 1%. In several countries, changes in behaviour and prevention programmes have contributed to lowering the share of newly infected people. More...

Note: The 2007 Epidemic Update published by UNAIDS/WHO provides better estimates of the number of people living with AIDS. Better data collecting and estimation methods led to revised figures : the total estimated number of people living with AIDS at the end of 2007 is 33.2 millions, with 2.5 million new infections and 2.1 million deaths (see the  2007 UNAIDS report). This decrease from previous numbers does not represent a trend in the epidemic, which is still progressing, but a refinement in the data. For example, the new estimate puts the number of people that were living with AIDS in 2005 at around 32 million. The new estimates show the same general trend in the epidemic than previous ones: a leveling off of the increase in prevalence since the late 90's, but with a continuing increase in the number of people living with AIDS.

2.2 How has the epidemic evolved in heavily affected regions?

Current trends in the HIV/AIDS epidemic vary across different countries and regions:

Note: numbers given in the following regional estimates are based on estimates made in 2005, which were revised in 2007. See the  2007 UNAIDS report for the latest estimates.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected by AIDS though there are great variations between countries. In this region, a total of 24.5 million people were living with HIV in 2005 and some 6.1% of adults were carrying the virus.

The situation is particularly serious in Southern African countries where the share of people living with HIV has reached exceptionally high levels but seems to be levelling off in most countries. The AIDS epidemic in South Africa is one of the worst in the world with an estimated total of 5.5 million people living with HIV in 2005 and an increasing share of its adult population being infected (18.8% in 2005 *). In some neighbouring countries, the percentage of the adult population living with HIV is even higher, reaching 33.4% in Swaziland. (2007 UNAIDS update: the epidemic in the South African area now seems to have leveled off, but the region is still the most severly affected.)

On a positive note, the share of people living with HIV is falling in Kenya, Zimbabwe and in urban areas of Burkina Faso, because more people are using condoms, they have fewer sexual partners and are older when they first have sex. In Africa, about one in six people in need of antiretroviral treatment are now receiving it.

The Caribbean is the second-most affected region in the world with some 1.6% of the adult population living with HIV in 2005. AIDS is the leading cause of death among adults, although the infection levels have decreased in urban areas of Haiti and in the Bahamas, and remained stable in neighbouring Dominican Republic and Barbados. More...

2.3 How has the epidemic evolved in less affected regions?

For all the following world regions, the average share of the adult population living with HIV is lower than the world average of 1%.

In Eastern Europe and central Asia, the epidemics are still spreading, with some 220 000 people newly infected in 2005, bringing to about 1.5 million the number of people living with HIV – a twenty-fold increase in less than a decade. Most of these people are living in Ukraine and the Russian Federation, which has the biggest AIDS epidemic in Europe.

In Latin America, the biggest epidemics affect countries with the largest populations, such as Brazil which was home to one third of the 1.6 million people living with HIV in Latin America in 2005. However, the most intense epidemics are occurring in the smaller countries of Belize and Honduras. Access to treatment has improved greatly in parts of Latin America, but some countries are too poor to afford the drugs.

Overall, in North America, Western and Central Europe, some 65 000 people were newly infected with HIV in 2005, bringing to 2 million the number of people living with HIV. AIDS deaths in 2005 were comparatively few as a consequence of widespread access to antiretroviral therapy. In the United States of America and in some countries of Europe, the epidemic seems to be increasing again among men who have sex with men, which is also a largely hidden problem in Latin America and in Asia.

In Asia, some 8.3 million people were living with HIV in 2005. The share of infected people is decreasing in Cambodia, Thailand, and in parts of India, but is increasing in countries such as China, Indonesia, Viet Nam, and Papua New Guinea. There are also signs of HIV outbreaks in Bangladesh and Pakistan. In Asia, about one in six people in need of antiretroviral treatment are now receiving it.

Across Oceania, HIV infection levels remain low, although Australia’s long-established AIDS epidemic is not disappearing.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the proportion of adults infected with HIV is very low, except in Sudan. However, the epidemics seem to be growing in several countries – including in Algeria, Iran, Libya and Morocco. About one in 20 people in need of antiretroviral treatment are now receiving it in this region. More...


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