A new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have fallen to the lowest levels in decades. Globally, new HIV infections are down 21 percent since 1997, and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses have decreased 21 percent since 2005.

“Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the AIDS response,” Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS said in a statement sent to the press. “We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”

Overall, the number of people receiving therapy has grown 13-fold since 2004, to more than five million people in low- and middle-income countries. More than five million people are now receiving HIV treatment, according to a  2010 UNAIDS report on the global epidemic.

Sub-Saharan Africa, a region that’s seen some of the highest HIV rates in the world, has seen striking improvements in the care that’s available. But other parts of the world are seeing a large increase in HIV transmission rates. The report describes infection rates:

New HIV infections have been significantly reduced or have stabilized in most parts of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa the number of new HIV infections has dropped by more than 26%, from the height of the epidemic in 1997, led by a one third drop in South Africa, the country with the largest number of new HIV infections in the world.

In the Caribbean, new HIV infections were reduced by a third from 2001 levels—and by more than 25% in Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Similarly the number of new HIV infections in South and South-East Asia dropped by more than 40% between 2006 and 2010. In India new HIV infections fell by 56%.

This latest analysis says the number of people living with HIV has reached a record 34 million.

UNAIDS estimates since 1995, around 2.5 million deaths are estimated to have been averted in low- and middle-income countries due to increased access to HIV treatment.

hiv_new_infections_2009.gifThe United States Center for Disease Control estimates 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Despite increases in the total number of people in the U.S. living with HIV in recent years, the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) of all races and ethnicities remain the population most severely affected by HIV. However, young, black MSM were the only risk group in the country to experience statistically significant increases in new HIV infections from 2006-2009. (Statistical data to the right via CDC.)

Blacks represent approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for an estimated 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2009. After MSM, black heterosexual women make up the fasted growing group of new infections in the US.

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