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 the World Health Organization (WHO), there were approximately 35 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS in 2013. Of these, 3.2 million were children (<15 years old).
- According to WHO, an estimated 2.1 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2013. This includes over 240,000 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.
- A UNAIDS report shows that 19 million of the 35 million people living with HIV today do not know that they have the virus.
- The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries. According to WHO, sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with 24.7 million people living with HIV in 2013. Seventy-one percent of all people who are living with HIV in the world live in this region.
- HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer. According to WHO, an estimated 39 million people have died since the first cases were reported in 1981 and 1.5 million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2013.
- Even today, 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 WHO, at the end of 2013, 12.9 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally, of which 11.7 million were receiving ART in low- and middle-income countries. About 740,000 of those were children. This is a 5.6 million increase in the number of people receiving ART since 2010. However, almost 22 million other people living with HIV, or 3 of 5 people living with HIV, are still not accessing ART.
- Progress has been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV and keeping mothers alive. According to WHO, in 2013, 67% of pregnant women living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries (970,000 women) received ART to avoid transmission of HIV to their children. This is up from 47% in 2010.
- 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 video conversation with Mary Mahy of UNAIDS at AIDS 2014 about the Gap Report.
- On World AIDS Day 2013, the White House released a new fact sheet detailing our nation’s efforts to address the HIV epidemic, both domestically and globally. Read the fact sheet.
Last revised: 10/31/2014