24 November 2009

Aids death toll passes 25 million

Aids has now killed 25 million people around the world, but the number of new infections is slowing sharply, the UN said in its annual report on the crisis.


Aids has now killed 25 million people around the world but the number of new infections is slowing sharply, the UN said in its annual report on the crisis.

Almost 60 million people have been infected by the HIV virus since it was first recorded but prevention programmes are having a significant impact, the UNAIDS agency said in its latest report.

Around two million people died of the disease in 2008, bringing the overall toll to around 25 million since the virus was first detected three decades ago.

Some 2.7 million were newly infected in 2008, it added.

Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, said that the number of new human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus infections have been reduced by 17% over the past eight years with some of the most notable progress reported in Africa.

Declines due to HIV prevention
HIV incidence has fallen by 25% since 2001 in East Africa while the figure for the sub-Saharan Africa as a whole was around 15% -- equating to around 400 000 fewer infections in 2008, said the report.

In South and South East Asia, HIV incidence has declined by 10% in the same time period. "The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention," Sidibe said.

"However, the findings also show that prevention programming is often off the mark and that if we do a better job of getting resources and programmes to where they will make most impact, quicker progress can be made and more lives saved."

The new report showed that more people than ever, around 33.4 million, are now living with the virus as people live longer due to the beneficial effects of antiretroviral therapy.

Double the effort needed
The number of deaths linked Aids has declined by over 10% over the past five years as more people gained to access to life saving treatment, said the report, estimating that around 2.9 million lives have been saved since 1996 when more effective treatment became available.

"International and national investment in HIV treatment scale-up has yielded concrete and measurable results. We cannot let this momentum wane," said Margaret Chan, head of the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO).

"Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives."

Sibide said that Aids, which was first declared as having reached epidemic proportions in 1981, was evolving and that research in some of Africa's worst affected countries had shown it having an increasingly significant impact on maternal mortality.

"Half of all maternal deaths in Botswana and South Africa are due to HIV," he said. "This tells us that we must work for a unified health approach bringing maternal and child health and HIV programmes as well as tuberculosis programmes together to work to achieve their common goal." – (Sapa, November 2009)


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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