Lifestyle & Belief

Huge drop in global HIV infections since 2001: Report


Volunteers join a human chain in the form of a red ribbon, a symbol of 'love and care' for HIV and AIDS carriers worldwide, at a gathering in downtown Taipei on Nov. 30, 2011.


Patrick Lin

The number of people with new HIV infections has significantly decreased since 2001, with a 52 percent reduction among children and a 33 percent combined reduction among adults and children, the United Nations reported Monday.

"The annual number of new HIV infections continues to decline with especially sharp reductions in the number of children newly infected with HIV," said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe.

In 2012, around 2.3 million people were infected with AIDS, bringing the total number of infected to about 35.3 million people.

Death rates have decreased from 2.3 million in 2005, a peak period, to 1.6 million last year, according to UNAIDS.

A reason for the drop in infections is new anti-retroviral medication that HIV-infected pregnant women receive. The drugs help prevent the transmission of the disease to their unborn children.

“Nearly 62 percent of women who are pregnant and have HIV have received anti-retroviral medicine. As a result, the number of children becoming infected with HIV has dropped to record low levels from nearly half a million just about 10 years ago," said Mahesh Mahalingam, director of the office of the deputy executive director of UNAIDS.

"Now only about 260,000 children were infected with HIV. We hope that by 2015, we can bring this number down to virtually zero,” Mahalingam added.

But despite the good news, UN report also said the international community still has a long way to go before reaching the Millennium Development Goal to halt and then reverse the AIDS epidemic.

The UN study said there were increased HIV infections in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The study also found that services for those who run the highest risk of infection - such as those who use drugs though needles - have progressed slowly.

In addition, the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS still prevents people from seeking treatment, and more funding is needed to combat the disease.