amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

UNAIDS Reports Fewer New HIV Infections and AIDS Deaths

November 23, 2010—The HIV/AIDS epidemic appears to be stabilizing, with fewer new HIV infections and a drop in the number of AIDS-related deaths in 2009, according to a new report from UNAIDS. However, these gains in prevention and treatment are tempered by ongoing funding shortfalls for HIV/AIDS programs and human rights violations that hinder the response among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

“Investments in the AIDS response are paying off, but gains are fragile,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “The challenge now is how we can all work to accelerate progress.”

In 2009, the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment reached a record 5.2 million—an increase of 30 percent in one year. However, for each person starting treatment, two more become infected, and overall funding for the AIDS response continues to fall short of what is needed.

While the number of people living with HIV at the end of 2009—33.3 million—was slightly higher than the 2008 estimate, increases in treatment access contributed to a 20 percent decline over five years in the number of AIDS deaths, which totaled 1.8 million in 2009. An estimated 2.6 million people became infected with HIV in 2009—nearly 20 percent fewer than the 3.1 million infected in 1999.

In at least 56 countries worldwide, the rate of new infections stabilized or decreased by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2009. This includes 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which continues to bear the brunt of new infections (69 percent). The number of new infections among children was 370,000, down from 500,000 in 2001—a decline that reflects increasing success in efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission.  In another encouraging sign that prevention programs are working, the rate of new infections among young people in 15 of the most affected countries fell by 25 percent. Condom distribution increased by 10 million from 2008, and condom use is rising in many countries.

Human rights is a key focus of this year’s report, which acknowledges the damaging effects of stigma and discrimination against populations most at risk of contracting HIV, including men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, sex workers, and injection drug users. Legal restrictions also hinder the HIV/AIDS response: same-sex sexual relations remain illegal in 79 countries, and punitive laws prevent sex workers and drug users from seeking services. Gender-based violence, transactional sex, and sociocultural practices that discriminate against women remain significant challenges. In almost all of sub-Saharan Africa and some Caribbean countries, the majority of people living with HIV are women, and fewer than half of all countries have created a specific budget for HIV services focusing on women and girls.

To read the full 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, visit

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