amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

UNAIDS Reports Decline in HIV Infections and AIDS Deaths

In its 2013 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, released September 23, UNAIDS estimates that new HIV infections declined from 3.4 million globally in 2001 to 2.3 million in 2012. According to the report, this 33% reduction puts the world is on track to meet UN Millennium Development Goal 6A: to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015. New infections among children fell by 52% over the same period, and AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 30% since peaking in 2005. Both of these declines reflect increased global access to antiretroviral therapy (ART)—which, in addition to controlling HIV, helps prevents mother-to-child transmission.

Adults and children estimated to be living with HIV in 2012 (Source: UNAIDS)

The number of people in low- and middle income countries receiving ART increased by 20% in just one year, to 9.7 million. In 2011, the UN set a target of getting 15 million people on ART by 2015 to meet UN Millennium Development Goal 6B: achieving universal access to HIV treatment. However, the World Health Organization issued new guidelines in June recommending that people begin treatment earlier—when their CD4 cell count drops to 500 cells/mm³, instead of to 350 cells/mm³ as previously recommended. This increased the estimated number of people in need of ART by more than 10 million, so achieving universal access will require a much greater global investment in treatment.

Global funding for HIV/AIDS rose to $18.9 billion in 2012, up from $3.8 billion in 2002. And while donor country funding to fight the global epidemic has remained flat since 2008, low- and middle- income countries have significantly increased their funding levels, and these domestic investments now account for 53% of all global HIV spending.

Sixty percent of countries currently have punitive laws that hamper the provision of HIV services to the populations most at risk of infection, including people who inject drugs, women and girls, and gay men, other men who have sex with men and transgender individuals, and the report warns that progress has stalled in improving human rights for these populations. “The report highlights the tremendous progress we have made in fighting the global epidemic in the past decade,” says Chris Collins, amfAR vice president and director of public policy. “It also shows that now is the time to increase our investment in treatment access and prevention programs targeting the most at-risk populations to seize the opportunity to control the epidemic and eventually end AIDS.”