Between 2001 and 2009 the number of new HIV infections per year dropped almost 25%, according to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. During this period India’s annual rate went down by over 50%, and 35% in South Africa. Since AIDS was first reported, between 25 million and 33 million are thought to have died. Estimates place the current number of people with AIDS worldwide at between 30.9 million and 36.9 million.

The first case of AIDS was reported on 1st June, 1981.

UNAIDS announced the following statistics:

  • Approximately 6.6 million individuals in developing nations received antiretroviral therapy at the end of 2010, almost 22 times the number in 2001.
  • In 2010, 1.4 million individuals started lifesaving treatment. A record.
  • By the end of 2010, over 420,000 children were being administered antiretroviral therapy, 50% more than two years before.

UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, said:

“Access to treatment will transform the AIDS response in the next decade. We must invest in accelerating access and finding new treatment options. Antiretroviral therapy is a bigger game-changer than ever before – it not only stops people from dying, but also prevents transmission of HIV to women, men and children.”

A recent trial – HPTN052 – showed that HIV positive individuals who adhere to the antiretroviral regimen are 96% less likely to transmit their infection to sexual partners.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, said:

“Countries must use the best of what science can offer to stop new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. We are at a turning point in the AIDS response. The goal towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support must become a reality by 2015.”

After thirty years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS informs that safer sexual behaviors are becoming more common. The authors of a new report “AIDS at 30: Nations at the crossroads” believe this is mainly due to prevention and awareness efforts worldwide.

Young men seem to be better informed about HIV and prevention than young women. Only 48% of young women know that condoms can significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection, compared to 74% of young men.

As a rapidly growing number of HIV-positive pregnant mothers gain access to antiretroviral preventive treatment, which should continue during delivery and breastfeeding, 26% fewer children became newly infected with HIV in 2009 compared to 2001.

115 developing nations are now providing optimal treatment regimens for HIV-positive expectant mothers. Thirty-one other nations still need to improve treatments and ease of access, UNAIDS informs.

Despite all this encouraging progress, UNAIDS reminds us that 9 million people who were eligible for treatment did not get it in 2010. While 36% of eligible people of all ages were receiving antiretroviral treatment in 2009, the figure for children was only 28%.

7,000 people become newly infected each day worldwide, a figure UNAIDS describes as still too high. That’s approximately one million people every 142 days.

The largest reductions in new HIV rates were seen in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. In the Caribbean and Latin America new HIV rates have dropped less than 25%, while in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa they have increased.

The following populations have a much higher risk of becoming infected with HIV:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • People who inject illegal drugs
  • Sex workers
  • Sex workers’ clients
  • Transgender people

Legislation in many countries, as well as stigma and discrimination are the main reasons why access to HIV prevention and treatment is usually lower among high risk populations. 79 countries still (April 2011) deem same sex relations as illegal, 116 nations and territories ban some aspects of sex work. Capital punishment for drug-related offences exists in 32 countries.

Approximately 26% of all new HIV infections worldwide are among females aged 15 to 24 years. HIV is the major cause of death among fertile women.

A considerable number of low-income nations depend on financing from abroad. International HIV resources declined last year.

Mr Sidibé said:

“I am worried that international investments are falling at a time when the AIDS response is delivering results for people. If we do not invest now, we will have to pay several times more in the future.”

However, developing nations increased their investments in HIV response from $1.6 billion in 2001 to $15.9 billion in 2009.

UNAIDS says that at least $22 billion is required by 2015, $6 billion more than there is available at the moment.

“AIDS at 30: Nations at the crossroads”

Written by Christian Nordqvist