Menu

Global HIV/AIDS Overview

36.7 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV/AIDS The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa 1.8 million children worldwide are living with HIV. Most of these children were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of the world’s most serious health and development challenges:

  • According to UNAIDS Exit Disclaimer, there were approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2015. Of these, 1.8 million were children (<15 years old).
  • According to UNAIDS Exit Disclaimer, an estimated 2.1 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2015.  This includes 150,000 children (<15 years). Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
  • According to WHO Exit Disclaimer, it is estimated that currently only 54% of people with HIV know their status. In 2014, approximately 150 million children and adults in 129 low- and middle-income countries received HIV testing services.
  • The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries. According to WHO Exit Disclaimer, sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with 25.6 million people living with HIV in 2015. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of the global total of new HIV infections.
  • According to WHO Exit Disclaimer, an estimated 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic, including 1.1 million in 2015.
  • Despite advances in our scientific understanding of HIV and its prevention and treatment as well as years of significant effort by the global health community and leading government and civil society organizations, most people living with HIV or at risk for HIV do not have access to prevention, care, and treatment, and there is still no cure. However, effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy lives and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
  • The HIV epidemic not only affects the health of individuals, it impacts households, communities, and the development and economic growth of nations. Many of the countries hardest hit by HIV also suffer from other infectious diseases, food insecurity, and other serious problems.
  • Despite these challenges, there have been successes and promising signs. New global efforts have been mounted to address the epidemic, particularly in the last decade. Prevention has helped to reduce HIV prevalence rates in a small but growing number of countries and new HIV infections are believed to be on the decline. In addition, the number of people with HIV receiving treatment in resource-poor countries has dramatically increased in the past decade. According to UNAIDS Exit Disclaimer, as of December 2015, 17 million people living with HIV were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally, up from 15.8 million in June 2015 and 7.5 million in 2010.
  • Progress also has been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV and keeping mothers alive. According to UNAIDS Exit Disclaimer, in 2015, 77% of pregnant women living with HIV globally had access to  antiretroviral medicines to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies; new HIV infections among children have declined by 50% since 2010.  

This overview compiled with information from WHO, UNAIDS, and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Global Health Policy Division.

Learn More

  • The United States supports a wide range of activities—from research and development to technical assistance and financial support to other nations—to combat the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.  Read about PEPFAR and the U.S. Government’s global HIV/AIDS activities.
  • Read our blog posts on the U.S. Government’s response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • View our World AIDS Day Exit Disclaimer videos.

Last revised: 09/28/2016