A United Nations report released Monday shows reductions in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, as well as significant progress towards reaching the 2015 UN Millenium Development Goal on HIV.
The report by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS finds that new HIV infections among adults and children were estimated at 2.3 million in 2012, a 33% reduction since 2001. Among only children, there was a 52% drop in new HIV infections. Part of this reduction can be attributed to programs, such as one in Ethiopia, that work to prevent transmission of the virus from HIV-positive mothers to their children, and train nurses and midwives on emergency obstetric and newborn care.
AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 30% since the peak in 2005, as the number of people accessing antiretroviral therapy has significantly increased. In 2005, only 1.3 million people in low- and middle- income countries were accessing antiretroviral therapy, while an estimated 9.7 million people were accessing treatment in 2012. Free treatment has helped with this increase in access, as shown in Zambia.
As little as 54% of all people eligible for HIV treatment worldwide actually receive it. Prevention efforts are also often stymied by persistent condom stockouts, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 69% of all people affected by HIV live. This problem is especially acute for women and girls. Women make up 58% of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region, and young women ages 15-24 are as much as eight times more likely than men to be HIV positive. More than 90% of pregnant women living with HIV reside in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Gender inequality, punitive laws and discriminatory actions are continuing to hamper national responses to HIV,” according to UNAIDS, “and concerted efforts are needed to address these persistent obstacles.”