Global AIDS Prevalence, Peak Infection Rate and Current Trends

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

World Health Organization Revises Figures on HIV/AIDS

A look at the worldwide AIDS situation

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In 2013, the World Health Organization reported that almost 70 million people have been infected with HIV and about 35 million people have died of AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic in the early 1980s.

The World Health Organization reported that the number of new HIV infections peaked in the late 1990s at more than three million. The 2011 "AIDS Epidemic Update," which is released by the United Nations and the World Health Organization annually, stated that an estimated 2.5 million people were newly infected with the disease worldwide. Nearly 1 in every 20 adults (4.9%) living with HIV, or 69% of the people living with HIV worldwide, were in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 34 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS in 2011 and 1.7 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses. Due in large part to antiretroviral therapy and some improvements in access to care, 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, and 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 2011. The advances in methodology also allowed for revisions in past estimates, and a clearer picture of the global AIDS epidemic. For example, 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 Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, an estimated 3.5 million people were living with HIV in 2011. 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.

HIV in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, and North Africa

Although overall numbers of new HIV/AIDS infections has decreased, the number of people living with HIV in the Middle East and North Africa has increased since 2001 by more than 35%. An increase in Eastern Europe and Central Asia was also noted. These four regions also experienced an increase in AIDS-related deaths, with a 21% increase in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and 17% in the Middle East and North Africa.

Gains in the Caribbean

After sub-Suharan Africa, the Caribbean is the most affected world region. However, the area experienced a 42% reduction in new infection since 2001, as well as a decline in AIDS-related deaths of 48% between 2005 and 2011.


More than 8 million people living worldwide with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy in 2011. The two-year span 2009 to 2011 saw 63% more people accessing treatment. While news is good in 10 low and middle income countries, where more than 80% of eligible people were receiving therapy, 7 million people eligible worldwide still did not have access, including 72% of children living with HIV.

—Liz Olson

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