The 2010 Global Report on the AIDS Epidemic, released this morning by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), reveals progress in the fight against the epidemic — albeit much too slowly. Globally, new infections have fallen, AIDS-related deaths are down and the total number of people living with HIV is stabilizing.
Data from the 2010 UNAIDS report estimates that 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV and the number of AIDS-related deaths decreased to 1.8 million in 2009, compared to 3.1 million new infections in 1999 and 2.1 million deaths in 2004. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by the epidemic, 1.8 million people became newly infected with HIV and 1.3 million AIDS-related deaths occurred in 2009.
By the end of 2009, 33.3 million people globally were living with HIV largely due to improvements in access to treatment. Additionally, from 2001 to 2009, the rate of new HIV infections stabilized or decreased by more than 25 percent in at least 56 countries around the world — including 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
While the number of new HIV infections is slowing and access to treatment has improved, there are still two new HIV infections for every one person that starts HIV treatment around the world. Investments in HIV prevention programs have not been adequately funded and represent only about 22 percent of all AIDS-related spending. Also, while some 5.25 million people are now on life-saving antiretroviral therapy, another 10 million are waiting for treatment. And, for some marginalized populations, the wait will be even longer.
Although continued improvements in access to treatment are needed, there has been progress in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to ensure that no child is born with HIV by 2015. In 2009, 54 percent of pregnant women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa received antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission of the virus to their children, up from only 15 percent in 2005.
At the launch of the report, Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said, “We are breaking the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic with bold action and smart choices. Investments in the AIDS response are paying off, but gains are fragile — the challenge now is how we can all work to accelerate progress.”
While we celebrate the progress that has been made, we are mindful that much work remains to be accomplished. Be sure to check the blog next week for a series on HIV/AIDS leading up to World AIDS Day on December 1st.