Global HIV prevalence has levelled off

Posted: 21 November 2007

New data show global HIV prevalence - the percentage of people living with HIV - has levelled off and that the number of new infections has fallen, in part as a result of the impact of HIV programmes. Improvements in surveillance have increased understanding of the epidemic, resulting in substantial revisions to estimates.

However, in 2007 some 33.2 million people were estimated to be living with HIV, 2.5 million people became newly infected and 2.1 million people died of AIDS.

HIV prevalence chart 07
HIV prevalence chart 07
Revised HIV prevalence figures from 1990. Click on image to view full-size version.
There were an estimated 1.7 million new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 - a significant reduction since 2001. However, the region remains most severely affected. An estimated 22.5 million people living with HIV, or 68 per cent of the global total, are in sub-Saharan Africa. Eight countries in this region now account for almost one-third of all new HIV infections and AIDS deaths globally.

Since 2001, when the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed, the number of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has increased by more than 150 per cent from 630,000 to 1.6 million in 2007.

In Asia, the estimated number of people living with HIV in Viet Nam has more than doubled between 2000 and 2005 and Indonesia has the fastest growing epidemic.

These findings were released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in the report 2007 AIDS Epidemic Update.

The new report reflects improved and expanded epidemiological data and analyses that present a better understanding of the global epidemic. These new data and advances in methodology have resulted in substantial revisions from previous estimates.

While the global prevalence of HIV infection - the percentage of people infected with HIV - has levelled off, the total number of people living with HIV is increasing because of ongoing acquisition of HIV infection, combined with longer survival times, in a continuously growing general population.

Global HIV incidence - the number of new HIV infections per year - is now estimated to have peaked in the late 1990s at over 3 million new infections per year, and is estimated in 2007 to be 2.5 million new infections, an average of more than 6,800 new infections each day. This reflects natural trends in the epidemic, as well as the result of HIV prevention efforts.

The number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses has declined in the last two years, due in part to the life prolonging effects of antiretroviral therapy. AIDS is among the leading causes of death globally and remains the primary cause of death in Africa.

"These improved data present us with a clearer picture of the AIDS epidemic, one that reveals both challenges and opportunities," said UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot. "Unquestionably, we are beginning to see a return on investment - new HIV infections and mortality are declining and the prevalence of HIV levelling. But with more than 6,800 new infections and over 5,700 deaths each day due to AIDS we must expand our efforts in order to significantly reduce the impact of AIDS worldwide."