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World AIDS Day 2012

By Gary Bell

December 3, 2012

Saturday was the 25th commemoration of World AIDS Day. The theme this year was "Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from AIDS-related illness and zero discrimination." While these may sound like lofty goals, the last year has shown some real progress.

Internationally, there are approximately 34 million people living with HIV, two thirds in so-called developing countries. In 2011, 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV. An estimated 1.7 million people died. That is 700,000 fewer new infections worldwide than ten years ago, and 600,000 fewer deaths than in 2005.

In the United States, there are approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV with about 50,000 new infections annually. Currently, only 33 percent of those who are HIV positive in the U.S. are on antiretroviral treatment and only 25 percent have a suppressed viral load. Perhaps the most disturbing news has been the impact of HIV/AIDS on young people. According to a CDC report, young people ages 13 to 24 years accounted for more than a quarter of new HIV infections in the United States in 2010. That amounted to approximately 12,000 cases, but only about a third of the persons in that age group had been tested. Every month, approximately 1,000 youth are becoming infected with HIV. One of the major implications of this new data is the increasing future healthcare burden: approximately $400,000 over one's lifetime.

There have also been some significant new developments:

Yet with all of the progress being made and the advances in medical treatment, we continue to have millions of new infections every year and over a million deaths. Over two thirds of HIV-positive people throughout the world who need antiretrovirals do not take them including in the United States. We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security with our successes. We still have a lot of work to do.

Read Gary's blog, Transition to Hope.

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