Progress in the global fight against HIV and AIDS is being seen in most regions of the world, according to the UNAIDS/WHO annual AIDS epidemic update released today, but much more still needs to be done.
"While these new estimates are of better quality than those of the past, we need to continue investing more in all countries and all aspects of strategic information relating to health," said WHO's HIV/AIDS Director Dr Kevin De Cock.
The report highlights some notable successes in HIV prevention, including:
- A decline in HIV prevalence among young pregnant women (15 – 24) attending antenatal clinics in eleven of the15 most-affected countries.
- Reduction in risky sexual behaviour among young people in Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, based on preliminary data.
- National HIV prevalence has declined in Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya and Zimbabwe in sub-Saharan Africa; and in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand in Asia
Nevertheless, many of countries and regions are still failing to contain the epidemic.
- Estimated HIV prevalence has more than doubled in Eastern Europe and Central Asia since 2001, from 630 000 to 1.6 million in 2007.
- Indonesia now has the fastest growing epidemic in Asia, and the estimated number of people living with HIV in Vietnam more than doubled between 2000 and 2005.
In addition, the report highlights that some countries are seeing a reversal of declining trends. For example, Burundi’s declining trend from the late 1990’s did not continue beyond 2005 and HIV prevalence started to increase again at most surveillance sites. And, despite achievements in reversing the epidemic in Thailand, HIV prevalence is rising among men who have sex with men and has remained high among injecting drug users over the past 15 years, ranging between 30% to 50%.
There were an estimated 1.7 million [1.4 – 2.4 million] new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007— a significant reduction since 2001.
However, the region remains the most severely affected globally, with an estimated 22.5 million people living with HIV. Of the estimated 2.1 million deaths worldwide due to AIDS-related illness, 76% occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
Unlike other global regions, the majority of people (61%) living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women.
Eight sub-Sarahan African countries now account for almost one-third of all new HIV infections and AIDS deaths globally. National adult HIV prevalence exceeded 15% in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2005.
South Africa now has the most people living with HIV infection in the world, but like most of the countries in Southern, East and West Africa adult HIV prevalence is either stable or has started to decline.
Declines in HIV prevalence have been seen in Kenya and Zimbabwe, and signs of declining HIV prevalence are also being seen in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and urban Burkina Faso.
UNAIDS estimates that 4.9 million people in Asia are now living with HIV in the region. HIV prevalence is highest in South-East Asia, although trends vary in different countries.
Whereas data suggest that Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia have experienced declines in HIV prevalence, Indonesia and Vietnam experienced significant increases in the numbers of people living with HIV.
UNAIDS also estimates that there were 440,000 [range, 210 000-1.0 million] new HIV infections throughout Asia during the past year, and that approximately 300,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in Asia in 2007.
WIth an adult HIV prevalence of around 1%, UNAIDS says that the Caribbean remains the second most affected region in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.
Around 230,000 people in the region were living with HIV in 2007, almost three quarters of whom live in just two countries: the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
UNAIDS also estimates that around 11,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses and approximately 17,000 [range, 15,000-23,000] people were newly infected with HIV in 2007.
Eastern Europe and Central Asia
The HIV epidemic continues unabated in this region, with an estimated 150,000 [range, 70,000- 290,000] new HIV infections reported in 2007, most of which occurred in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. These two countries accounted for almost 90% of all newly reported HIV diagnoses in the region.
UNAIDS estimates that 1.6 million [range, 1.2 million-2.1 million] people are now people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and that approximately 55,000 [range, 42,000-88,000] people died of AIDS-related illnesses in the region in 2007.
UNAIDS. AIDS epidemic update: December 2007. and associated press releases and reports, available from the UNAIDS website.