Since scientists identified the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in 1983, it has spread relentlessly, causing one of the most devastating pandemics ever recorded in human history. More than 30 million people have died due to AIDS-related causes since the pandemic began and millions more are newly infected with the virus each year. However, concerted global efforts to battle the pandemic are making a significant difference. More than 8 million people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries now have access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment. The annual count of AIDS-related deaths has declined since it peaked in the mid 2000s, and the number of new HIV infections each year has declined since its peak in 1997.
Still, AIDS remains the fourth leading cause of death in low-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. Every day, nearly 7,000 people worldwide become newly infected with HIV, and for every three people who begin life-saving antiretroviral treatment, five more are newly infected. The most vulnerable and impoverished people in the world continue to bear the heaviest burden of this merciless disease: sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 68% of new HIV infections in 2011.
IAVI supports a comprehensive response to this crisis. This includes everything from expanding educational and behavioral HIV-prevention programs to increasing access to treatment and the entire HIV prevention toolbox while addressing the underlying economic disparities and social and cultural phenomena that fuel the epidemic. While there will never be a single solution to HIV and AIDS, mathematical modeling suggests a preventive vaccine would do a great deal to curb the pandemic. IAVI is committed to working with partners in all sectors to speed the development of such vaccines and to ensure that people everywhere have access to them when they become available.