UNAIDS report on the global AIDS epidemic 2013

September 23, 2013

As world leaders meet at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the future of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a new report on the global AIDS epidemic from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has been published. The report shows dramatic acceleration towards reaching the 2015 global targets on HIV. Among the many health targets that were established in the Millennium Development Goals, MDG 6 calls for unprecedented action to halt and begin to reverse the AIDS epidemic. We are now less than two years from the deadline for the MDGs. Yet AIDS remains an unfinished business.

The report on the global AIDS epidemic 2013 shows the world is within reach of providing antiretroviral therapy to 15 million people by 2015. By the end of 2012, some 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries were accessing antiretroviral therapy, an increase of nearly 20% in one year.

The annual number of new HIV infections among adults and adolescents decreased by 50% or more in 26 countries between 2001 and 2012. However, other countries are not on track to halve sexual HIV transmission. Efforts to reduce transmission related to sex work and men who have sex with men remain insufficient, as evidence by recent trends in prevalence among these groups.

HIV infections among children

As of December 2012, over 900 000 pregnant women living with HIV globally received antiretroviral prophylaxis or treatment. Coverage of antiretroviral programmes for prevention of mother-to-child transmission increased from 57% in 2011 to 63% in 2012. However, the annual number of newly infected children in 2012 was still 260 000  in low- and middle-income countries. That means that in order to reach the global target of reducing the number of new infections among children by at least 90% by 2015 programme expansion will need to accelerate.

Treatment coverage deficits for children

In 2012, 647 000 children under 15 years of age were receiving antiretroviral treatment. Although the number of children receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2012 increased by 14% in comparison to 2011, the pace of scale-up was substantially slower than for adults (a 21% increase). HIV treatment coverage among children living with HIV in 2012 was less than half the coverage for adults.

HIV infections among adolescents and young people

Across sub-Saharan Africa, diverse countries have achieved notable reductions in HIV prevalence among young people (15–24 years). In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV prevalence among young women and men fell by 42% from 2001 to 2012. But even with these favourable trends, HIV prevalence among young women remains more than twice as high as among young men throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of young people demonstrating comprehensive and accurate understanding of HIV rose by five percentage points for men and by three for women from 2002 to 2011, although knowledge levels remain low (36% for young men and 28% for young women).

HIV-related stigma and discrimination

HIV-related stigma and discrimination persist as major obstacles to an effective HIV response in all parts of the world. The report finds that progress has been slow in ensuring the respect of human rights, securing access to HIV services for people most at risk of HIV infection, particularly people who use drugs, and in preventing violence against women and girls. Gender inequality, punitive laws and discriminatory actions are continuing to hamper national responses to HIV. Criminalisation of key populations also remains widespread. Efforts are needed to address these obstacles to the scale up of HIV services for people most in need.

Concluding remark

As this 2013 Global Report makes clear, today we have the tools we need to lay the groundwork to end the AIDS epidemic. To contribute to reaching the targets, STOP AIDS NOW! will continue to support prevention initiatives and offer care, treatment and income opportunities to those affected by HIV and AIDS. In doing so, we particularly focus on women, youth and children, the severest affected groups in generalized epidemics, and at the same time encourage the inclusion of other groups such as sex workers, injecting drug users and men who have sex with men.

To access the 2013 UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic and related materials, visit the UNAIDS website.