The Human Immunodeficiancy Virus
(HIV), is a virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition that leads to the continuous deterioration of the immune system which can ultimately result in death. HIV is passed on primarily through the transmission
of an infected personís blood, unprotected sexual intercourse and injected drug use.
In 2011, some 34 million people were HIV positive worldwide. More than 23 million of those infected with HIV
lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 20 countries with the highest HIV prevalence
in 2011, all were in Africa. Outside Africa, Thailand has the highest instances of HIV infection. HIV prevalence
in North America and Europe is significantly lower. This can be attributed to better awareness, higher hygiene standards and better HIV prevention.
After a peak in 2004-2006, the number of AIDS deaths
is steadily decreasing. Stilll, there were approximately 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths all over the world in 2011, with most of them once again occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa. With around 270 thousand, South Africa has by far the highest number of deaths due to AIDS
. Among countries outside Africa
, Russia has the highest number of AIDS deaths.
Since its discovery in 1981, treatment for HIV/AIDS
has vastly improved. With the help of antiretroviral therapy (ART), people infected with HIV can effectively stall the progress from HIV to AIDS. Since 1995, ART added more than 14 million years of life
to HIV patients in low- and middle-income countries alone. Although access to antiretroviral therapy
in these countries is still limited, progress over the last years can be seen clearly.
As expected, spending on HIV/AIDS is a very important issue. In 2011, available funding
for the battle against the disease reached some 17 billion U.S. dollars globally. However, this will have to rise steeply with some estimates placing the funds required by 2015 at 24 billion. Poorer countries mainly depend on international funding
to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For example, public and philanthropic institutions from developed countries are among the top funders
for research and development on HIV/AIDS.
Photo: istockphoto.com / alekup