A new report from UNAIDS in advance of World AIDS Day shows some impressive progress in the fight against HIV. There were 2 million new HIV infections around the world in 2014–15, the lowest since 2000, when 3.1 million people worldwide were diagnosed with HIV. Deaths from AIDS, the last stages of HIV infection, are also coming down, from a high of 2 million in the early 2000s to 1.2 million this year.
Much of that can be attributed to improved access to life-saving treatments with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). UNAIDS says that 41% of people who are HIV positive are now being treated, nearly double the percentage in 2010. (Meanwhile, in the U.S., drugs that can prevent the transmission of HIV are proving successful, even in high-risk groups.)
While infections in sub-Saharan Africa remain high — 66% of the HIV positive people in the world live in the region — there are signs of hope in that part of the world as well. New infections dropped by 41% since 2000, and AIDS-related deaths declined by 48%. But the theme of the report, Location and Population, highlights the subgroups in certain parts of the world who are still at high risk and aren’t receiving the treatments they need. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, nearly half of the 25.8 million people living with HIV are women, and that increases the risk that, if they become pregnant, they will pass along the infection to their children. Drug treatments can significantly reduce the risk of transmission during birth, but not all women in the area have adequate prenatal and reproductive health care.
In Asia, only two countries have more than half of their HIV positive population on ARVs, and AIDS-related deaths have increased by 11% since 2000.
The situation is perhaps most sobering in eastern Europe, where new infections of HIV increased by 30% since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths more than tripled in that time period. Only 18% of HIV positive adults in the area were taking ARVs.