HIV is a major global public health issue. It is the virus that causes AIDS.

AIDS-related conditions have claimed the lives of more than 36 million people around the world. Worldwide, infection rates in 2020 were 37.7 million. Some areas of the world have higher rates of infection. Most people with HIV live in low and middle income countries.

Making a global commitment to reducing the transmission of HIV and improving access to HIV treatments are necessary steps in controlling the epidemic.

Keep reading to learn about HIV and AIDS statistics from the United States and other countries around the world.

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In 2020, 37.7 million people had HIV, and 680,000 people died from AIDS-related conditions. Since 2004, however, AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 64%.

The World Health Organization (WHO) groups countries into six regions. The countries most affected by HIV are in the WHO African Region, particularly in the eastern and southern parts of the continent. Over two-thirds of people with HIV are in the WHO African Region.

Countries in the eastern and southern parts of the African Region have the highest rates of HIV infection. Although the African continent continues to have the highest rates of infection, rates are dropping.

Infection rates are generally low in other parts of the world. However, a review article in the Journal of Virus Eradication notes that new HIV infections are rising in:

  • Eastern Europe
  • the Middle East
  • North Africa
  • Central Asia
  • the Central European region

More resources and interventions can help curb the ongoing HIV epidemic in these regions.

At the end of 2019, almost 1.2 million people aged 13 years and above in the U.S. had HIV. Experts report a drop of 9% in HIV diagnoses in the U.S. and dependent areas between the years of 2015 and 2019.

HIV diagnoses are not evenly distributed across U.S. states. In 2018, more than 37,000 people received a diagnosis of HIV. Over half of these new diagnoses were in the southern states.

The following table shows the states with the highest rates of diagnosis in 2018.

StateRate per 100,000 people

The region with the second-highest rate of infection is the U.S. dependent areas. The areas with the highest rates are Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In each U.S. region, most people with HIV reside in urban areas. For example, in the Northeast, 92% of diagnoses are in people who live in urban areas.

The following table shows the number of people with HIV in the countries with the highest rates of infection in the WHO African Region. This is the region with the highest overall infection rate.

CountryAdults and children with HIV
South Africa7,800,000
United Republic of Tanzania1,700,000

Other regions with high rates of infection include:

  • Western and Central Africa, including Nigeria, with 1,700,000 people with HIV
  • Asia and the Pacific, including India, with 2,300,000 people with HIV
  • Western and Central Europe, with high rates in Cyprus and Romania
  • North America, including the U.S., with an estimated 1,189,000 people with HIV
  • Latin America and the Caribbean, with 1,900,000 people with HIV

New HIV infection rates have dropped over the years. The world has seen a 52% reduction in new HIV infections since the epidemic peaked in 1997. In 1997, 3 million people reported new HIV infections, compared with only 2.1 million in 2010 and 1.5 million in 2020.

This is because people in resource-poor countries now have significantly improved access to HIV treatments. Preventing vertical transmission of HIV, which refers to when the infection passes from a birthing parent to their fetus, has also contributed to lowering transmission rates. Additionally, the medical community has added new HIV prevention tools and methods.

However, the unequal distribution of HIV treatment and prevention strategies still leaves many vulnerable populations behind. Important barriers to improving access to care include stigma, discrimination, social inequities, and exclusion.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people with HIV or at risk of HIV still did not have access to prevention, care, and treatment. The pandemic caused a greater disturbance in the distribution of health services in many countries. Some countries report a 75% disruption of HIV services.

According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the benefits of providing HIV services outweigh the risk of dying from COVID-19.

HIV spreads through contact with bodily fluids from people who have the virus. Bodily fluids that carry HIV include:

  • blood
  • breast milk
  • semen
  • vaginal secretions

HIV can also transmit from a birthing parent to their fetus during pregnancy and delivery.

It is not possible to contract HIV through:

  • kissing
  • hugging
  • shaking hands
  • sharing foods or beverages

People with HIV who are taking antiretroviral therapy and who are virally suppressed cannot transmit the virus. This is because the treatment reduces the multiplication of the virus in their body and allows the immune system to strengthen.

In 2020, the WHO reported that 73% of people with HIV were taking antiretroviral therapy. More efforts can help improve the global HIV treatment coverage rate. Among children and adolescents with HIV, only 54% were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2020.

Another key issue with transmission is people not knowing that they have HIV. In 2020, about 6.1 million people with HIV were unaware that they had the virus. These individuals may have transmitted HIV to others unknowingly.

COVID-19 restrictions disrupted HIV testing. This led to many countries reporting drops in diagnoses and referrals for HIV treatment. Experts suggest that these events may lead to more HIV-related deaths and increased transmission of HIV.

HIV and AIDS rates are improving, but some vulnerable areas — such as Central Europe — are showing a rising trend in infection rates.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted health services in many countries, and this may have increased HIV-related deaths and transmission rates.

Making additional efforts and resuming HIV services can help lower transmission and death.