UNAIDS reports that the rate of new HIV infections worlddwide is the lowest they’ve been in 15 years. But the global progress in the fight to end HIV isn’t universal. In particular, Eastern European countries like Russia are seeing record breaking rates of new infections, even as other nations around the world are making headway in reducing the disease's spread.
The latest global HIV progress report indicates 2 million people learned they were HIV-positive in 2014–15, the lowest rate of new cases since 2000, a year when 3.1 million people were diagnosed with the virus. Deaths of people with stage-4 HIV (those suffering from AIDS-related illnesses), are also continuing to decrease; down from a high of 2 million in the early 2000s to 1.2 million this year.
That progress is due to the increasing number of people living with HIV who have access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs. UNAIDS says that 41 percent of people in the world who are HIV positive are now in care, nearly double the percentage in 2010. Getting on treatment is essential to transforming HIV into a chronic illness and a new study reiterates that even when people are already ill before beginning antiretroviral medications their immune system can fully recover. Increased efforts around prevention — especially access to PrEP, have also made an impact on the rate of new infections.
To honor World AIDS Day, Britian’s Prime Minister David Cameron has announced increased funding for prevention and a program improving access to at-home HIV testing. (link to video)
While infection rates are down globally there is still work to be done. In sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of all people living with HIV reside, new infections have dropped by 41 percent since 2000, and AIDS-related deaths declined by 48 percent. Because nearly half of the 25.8 million people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women, mother-to-child transmission continues to be a problem. Although treatment now exists to all but eliminate the risk an HIV-positve mother will pass the disease on to her child, not all women in the area have adequate prenatal and reproductive health care.
Another trouble spot is Asia, where only two countries have succeeded in getting more than half of their citizens living with HIV on ARVs, and AIDS-related deaths have increased by 11 percent since 2000. But the worst results came from eastern Europe (link to piece about eastern europe’s rates), where new infections have increased by 30 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths more than tripled in that time period. Less than 20 percent of the HIV positive adults in the area were taking ARVs.