Fewer people dying from HIV, more people living with it

Treatment for HIV-infected patients is more effective than ever before, the United Nations AIDS program (UNAIDS) has just reported. Thus, while the number of new HIV infections worldwide is over 20 percent lower than during the peak of the epidemic, as countries become more successful at keeping these patients alive, more people than ever are living with the virus: 34 million in 2010. As most health officials agree, the focus now must be on prevention and increasing access to the HIV drugs that have evolved so remarkably over the last decade.

Although worldwide the number of people receiving treatment for AIDS has improved dramatically, sub-Saharan Africa still remains the hardest hit region. UNAIDS reports that, despite the area s population accounting for only 12 percent of the world s people, it accounts for 70 percent of existing and new HIV infections every year, as well as nearly half of all AIDS-related deaths. Lessening the toll of AIDS in these countries is more of a socioeconomic and political problem now, says ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom. There are now antiretroviral drugs that are powerful enough to control the virus. Getting them effectively distributed, coupled with the successful promotion of safe sex practices, will put a huge dent in the epidemic.

For more on the ongoing battle against AIDS, revisit Dr. Bloom s op-ed on the progress thus far and the work that remains: How Far We ve Come.