December 1 is observed annually as World AIDS Day. This year’s theme is ‘Getting to Zero.’ World AIDS Day was launched in 1988 to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, to encourage support for people living with the disease, and to remember those who had died.
AIDS is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight the organisms that cause disease.
Countries around the world have committed to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the world has come a long way since 2000, achieving the global target of halting and reversing the spread of HIV.”
Below are some key facts about the pandemic, courtesy of the WHO:
- HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 34 million lives since extensive documentation began in the 1980s. In 2014, 1.2 million people died from HIV-related causes globally.
- There were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2014, with 2 million people becoming newly infected in 2014 globally.
- Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with 25.8 million people living with HIV in 2014. The region also accounts for almost 70 per cent of the global total of new HIV infections.
- HIV infection is often diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), which detect the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. Most often these tests provide same day test results; essential for same day diagnosis and early treatment and care.
- It is estimated that currently, only 53 per cent of people with HIV know their status. In 2014, approximately 150 million children and adults in 129 low- and middle-income countries received HIV testing services.
- By mid-2015, 15.8 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally.
- Between 2000 and 2015, new HIV infections have fallen by 35 per cent, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 24 per cent with some 7.8 million lives saved as a result of international efforts that led the global achievement of the HIV targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
- Expanding ART to all people living with HIV and expanding prevention choices can help avert 21 million AIDS-related deaths and 28 million new infections by 2030.
Regionally, here are some stats from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and AVERT.org:
- The Caribbean has an adult HIV prevalence of 1.1 per cent, with the highest prevalence of 3.2 per cent found in the Bahamas.
- Five countries account for 96 per cent of all people living with HIV in the region: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
- There are approximately 29,000 persons living with HIV in Jamaica. Of that number, 80 per cent have been diagnosed.
- New HIV infections declined by 40 per cent from 2005 and 2013, there were still an estimated 12,000 new HIV infections and a total of 250,000 people living with HIV in the region in 2013.
- Access to ART has improved significantly with coverage currently at 42 per cent of people 15 years or older living with HIV in the Caribbean – an increase of 31 per cent since 2011.