Detailed information on the HIV epidemic: Present situation and trends

A nurse shows an HIV-positive patient's record at Semenanyane health clinic in Thaba-Tseka, eastern Lesotho.

Facts and figures

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), some 36.9 million people, including 2.6 million children below the age of 15, were infected with the HI virus around the world in 2014.

Some 2 million people (including 220,000 children) were newly infected with the HI virus in 2014 (compared to 3.1 million in 2000).

Around 1.2 million people died of AIDS in 2014, that is 42 per cent fewer than in 2004.

These figures show that successes have been scored when it comes to con­tain­ing AIDS. However, they also show that the HIV epidemic still represents one of humanity’s biggest disasters and that the threat of the HI virus spreading further has not yet been averted.

The drop in annual new infections and AIDS-related deaths is due to several factors: successful prevention measures, improving the supply of medications that restrict viral replication (antiretroviral medicines), and increased care and support for those living with HIV. Nevertheless, there are still about 5,500 new infections every day; some 3,300 people die of AIDS each day.

Regional differences

Children in the slum of Mathare Valley in Nairobi, Kenya. Copyright: bpa, Bernd KühlerThe situ­a­tion in sub-Saharan Africa is par­tic­u­lar­ly serious. In 2014, some 25.8 million people were HIV-positive in that region. More than 85 per cent of those children who became infected with HIV in 2014 live in sub-Saharan Africa. In many coun­tries in Africa, more than five per cent of those aged between 15 and 49 are HIV-positive; in three sub-Saharan African coun­tries that figure is more than 20 per cent. Even in those coun­tries in African where the rate of infection is below five per cent, HIV still poses a huge challenge.

Contrary to the general trend, the number of new infections is continuing to rise in some coun­tries in Asia and Eastern Europe. The number of infections has, however, changed relatively little in industrialised coun­tries in recent years.

High-risk popu­la­tion groups

During the early stages of the AIDS epidemic, the disease was chiefly regarded as one that affected homosexual men. Today, a little over half of all HIV-positive people around the world are female – in sub-Saharan Africa approximately 57 per cent of those infected with HIV are women. Young women are at par­tic­u­lar­ly high risk of being infected. In the 15 to 24 age group, more than double the number of women are HIV-positive than men.

Mother with her child in a center of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing in Namibia. Copyright:, KoehlerThe gender roles that are firmly entrenched in society also have an im­por­tant role to play in regard to boys’ and men’s HIV risk – because they are linked to high-risk behaviours such as alcohol consumption or multiple sexual partners. Sexual minorities such as homosexual men are often forced onto the fringes of society or are criminalised.

German de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion therefore places special emphasis on changing gender roles in the context of its HIV and AIDS programmes.

Since it is especially young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who become infected with HIV, they are the most im­por­tant target group for HIV prevention measures. They are to learn through education and awareness-raising how to lead sex lives that are self-determined, partnership-based, safe and free of violence.

In many coun­tries, HIV-positive children still have poor chances of survival. The prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is thus another im­por­tant task. It is also highly effective: Where pregnant women are systematically treated, the risk of mother-to-child trans­mission can be lowered to as low as two per cent. However, HIV-positive children still lack access to appropriate medicines. Their situ­a­tion has not improved as significantly as that of adults in recent years.

Impact of HIV and AIDS

In the period after 1990 average life expectancy in some African coun­tries regressed to a level last recorded in the 1960s on account of the HIV epidemic. Because HIV and AIDS hit the young and middle-aged generations hardest, these sectors of the popu­la­tion are getting smaller in the worst affected coun­tries. The 20 to 40 age group is therefore no longer available to the economy. That causes serious economic and de­vel­op­ment problems and can, in the long term, lead to increased pov­er­ty.

In coun­tries and regions in which a significant proportion of the labour force falls victim to the disease, gross domestic product (GDP) can drop sharply. In a coun­try like Botswana, in which nearly a quarter of all adults are HIV-positive, many families will in the foreseeable future be without a breadwinner.

HIV is thus one of the greatest pov­er­ty risks for entire societies in our time. In many coun­tries it hampers de­vel­op­ment progress or even reverses it.

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