Over 4,000 researchers, academics, scientists and doctors are gathering in Durban for the 5th South African AIDS Conference this week, thirty years after the first HIV case was reported. Irin PlusNews offers an overview of where things stand today.

It is three decades since the first HIV case was reported and in that time, an estimated 30 million people have died, another 34 million are living with the virus and an estimated 7,000 new infections occur every day.

But it is not all bad news – according to a new report by UNAIDS, a record 1.4 million people started antiretroviral drugs in 2010, and the global rate of new HIV infections declined by nearly 25 percent between 2001 and 2009.

Some of the key points of the report, which catalogues the successes and failures in the fight against HIV over the years, include:

HIV infection by numbers:

– Between 1981 and 2000, the number of people living with HIV rose from less than one million to an estimated 27.5 million;

– In 2010, an estimated 34 million people were HIV-positive;

– The number of new infections has steadily declined, with the annual rate of new infections falling by nearly 25 percent between 2001 and 2009.


– Between 2001 and 2010, the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment rose nearly 22-fold, with an estimated 6.6 million people on treatment globally by December 2010;

– An estimated nine million people who qualified for ARVs did not receive them.

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission:

– By 2005, just 15 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries received antiretroviral prophylaxis;

– The number of women accessing PMTCT services continues to grow, and the number of children newly infected with HIV in 2009 – an estimated 370,000 – was 26 percent lower than in 2001.

Stigma and discrimination:

– The proportion of countries with programmes to address stigma and discrimination increased from 39 percent in 2006 to 92 percent in 2010, but less than half these countries had a budget for such programmes;

– China, Namibia, the Ukraine and USA recently lifted HIV-related travel restrictions;

– Forty-seven countries, territories and areas still impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV, while more than 56 countries still have laws criminalizing HIV transmission or exposure;

– Some aspect of sex work is criminalised in 116 countries, territories and areas, while 79 countries and territories criminalise consensual same-sex sexual relations, including 85 percent of countries in eastern and southern Africa, 81 percent in the Middle East and North Africa, and 69 percent in the Caribbean;

– Thirty-two countries have laws that impose the death penalty for drug-related offences, and 27 provide for the compulsory detention of people who use drugs.

High-risk groups:

– In countries reporting on key populations, between 2008 and 2010, HIV increased from 44 percent to 50 percent among sex workers and from 30 percent to 36 percent among men who have sex with men (MSM); prevalence among intravenous drug users (IDUs) remained stable at 28 percent;

– In at least 69 countries where injecting drug use has been documented, no needle exchange programmes exist. In 19 of 39 countries with ARV programmes for IDUs, just 10 percent of IDUs eligible for treatment received it in 2010.

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