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Latest estimates of worldwide AIDS epidemic: 65 million infected since 1981

November 28, 2001

28 November 2001—Today, an estimated 40 million men, women and children are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to a new report (Français) from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which monitors the spread of the epidemic. An additional 25 million people have died of AIDS since the first case was recorded 20 years ago.

Despite increased attention to AIDS recently, the virus shows no signs of slowing. In 2001 alone, 5 million people were newly infected with HIV—this translates to nearly 14,000 new infections daily, or 600 infections every hour. And despite new powerful medicines that are helping some people with AIDS live longer, still 3 million died of the disease this year.

"This report frames a world struggling uphill against the epidemic. Unless the world moves now to aggressively stop new infections, future updates are doomed to show us, at best, holding our own," said Dr. Seth Berkley, President and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI).

"Today there is still time to turn the tide, if the world quickly mobilizes a full arsenal of prevention efforts, chief among them a safe and effective vaccine.

"A preventive vaccine would be the ultimate tool against the cycle of new AIDS cases," Dr. Berkley said "In the quest for a vaccine, the world is making progress, but not quickly enough. Even with recent steps forward, scientific advancement is slowed not so much by technical challenges as by lack of political commitment and research funding."

The UNAIDS report paints a grim picture of a world where AIDS is entrenched in nearly every corner:

  • The toll of AIDS remains highest in sub Saharan Africa, where 28 million people are believed to now be living with HIV infection; 3.4 million were newly infected in 2001.
  • In Asia, 7 million people are now living with HIV, and the epidemic claimed nearly a half million lives in 2001. India's 3.9 million infections are second to only South Africa.
  • UNAIDS says Eastern Europe is experiencing the fastest rates of infection. In the Russian Federation, the number of HIV positive people doubled over the past year.