November 23, 2004
New York, 23 November 2004 – Nearly 5 million people became infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, this past year, according to statistics released by UNAIDS in advance of World AIDS Day. The number of people living with HIV is at an all-time high. And record numbers of women, particularly young women between 15-24, are now included in the high-risk category.
As the epidemic spreads from traditional risk groups – injecting drug users, men who have sex with men and commercial sex workers – into the general population, more women who previously were thought to have no risk factors for HIV infection are becoming infected. Today 47% of all people living with HIV are women.
“At long last the world is waking up to the spread of the virus in women and their unique susceptibility. We must prioritize the development of new technologies – such as vaccines and microbicides – that women can use to protect themselves in settings where they are most vulnerable. A vaccine represents the world’s best hope for ending the epidemic,” said Seth Berkley, MD, President and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).
Preventive vaccines have been key to curbing viral epidemics such as polio and smallpox in the past. An AIDS vaccine could protect women when they are unable to negotiate for safer sex. Microbicides are another new technology in development that women could self-administer to protect themselves.
An estimated 39.4 million people worldwide are now living with HIV. The highest prevalence in the world is in sub-Saharan Africa followed by the Caribbean. And according to the latest statistics, the virus is spreading most rapidly in China and the Ukraine and Russia.
Global spending to develop an AIDS vaccine represents less than 2% of the total money spent on the AIDS effort.
About IAVI: IAVI (www.iavi.org) is a global not-for-profit organization working to accelerate the development of a preventive AIDS vaccine. Founded in 1996 and operational in 23 countries, IAVI and its network of collaborators research and develop vaccine candidates. IAVI also works to assure that a vaccine will be accessible to everyone who needs it. IAVI’s major financial supporters include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Rockefeller, Sloan and Starr foundations; the World Bank; BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.); the European Union; and the governments of Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.