World Health Organization Revises Figures on HIV/AIDS
A look at the worldwide AIDS situation
by Liz Olson
The World Health Organization reported in November 2007 that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS and the number of people newly infected has leveled off.
The World Health Organization reported that the number of new HIV infections peaked in the late 1990s at more than three million. The 2007 "AIDS Epidemic Update," which is released by the United Nations and the World Health Organization annually, stated that an estimated 2.7 million people were newly infected with the disease worldwide in the past year. An estimated 68% (1.7 million) of the new HIV infections occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
A reported 33.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS in 2007—a considerable reduction from the reported 40 million cases in 2001. In addition, the estimated 2.7 million new infections reported in 2007 are notably smaller than the 5 million counted in 2001.
Due in large part to antiretroviral therapy, the number of deaths related to HIV/AIDS has declined since 2001. According to the WHO, 2.1 million people died of AIDS in 2007, compared to 3 million in 2001.
Advances in Reporting and Analysis Account for Reductions
Improved epidemiological data and analysis are significant factors in the six million drop of people living with HIV/AIDS from 2001 to 2007. The advances in methodology also allowed for revisions in past estimates, and a clearer picture of the global AIDS epidemic. The WHO revised its 2006 estimate of 39.5 people living with HIV/AIDS to 32.7 million cases in 2007. The principle reason for this reduction was the reassessment of cases in India and five sub-Saharan countries.
High Numbers in Asia
In Asia, an estimated 4.9 million people are living with HIV. The prevalence of HIV is highest in the southeastern Asian countries, but large numbers of people are affected in India as well. There has been a decline in HIV prevalence in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia, but Vietnam and Indonesia show growing numbers.
India is expanding its HIV surveillance systems and has increased its surveillance sites from 155 in 1998 to 1,120 in 2006.
HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
Although overall numbers of new HIV/AIDS infections has decreased, the number of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has increased since 2001. The estimated number of people living with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia increased from 630,000 in 2001 to 1.6 million in 2007—an increase of 150%. In 2006, 90% of the new diagnoses were from the Russian Federation and the Ukraine. Two-thirds of HIV transmission in Eastern Europe and Central Asia were attributed to intravenous drug use.
Struggle in sub-Saharan Africa
Prevalence of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa has leveled off, but it remains the most affected region of the world, and AIDS continues to be the leading cause of death there. In 2007, 76% of 2.1 million AIDS deaths and two-thirds of new infections occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
The improvements in data collection and surveillance systems will allow better assessments of treatment needs and funding in the future.
HIV Carriers Not Notified in Chile
In November 2008, Chile's health minister announced that almost 2,000 people were not informed by public and private health care services that they were living with HIV. The Health Minister, Alvaro Erazo, attributed the problem to a break-down in communication between the National AIDS Commission and the Health Ministry.
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