10 facts about HIV

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infects cells of the immune system

Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body’s ability to fend off some infections and other diseases. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or related cancers.

HIV can be transmitted in several ways

HIV can be transmitted through:

  • unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person;
  • transfusions of contaminated blood;
  • the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes or other sharp instruments;
  • the transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

35 million people are living with HIV worldwide

Globally, an estimated 35.0 million [33.2–37.2 million] people were living with HIV in 2013, and 3.2 million [2.9–3.5 million] of these were children. The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries. An estimated 2.1 million [1.9–2.4 million] people were newly infected with the virus in 2013.

HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer

An estimated 39 million people have died from AIDS-related causes so far, including 1.5 million [1.4–1.7 million] in 2013.

There are several ways to prevent HIV transmission

Key ways to prevent HIV transmission:

  • practice safe sexual behaviours such as using condoms;
  • get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV;
  • avoid injecting drugs, or if you do, always use new and disposable needles and syringes;
  • ensure that any blood or blood products that you might need are tested for HIV.

Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) prevents the HIV virus from multiplying in the body

If the reproduction of the HIV virus stops, then the body’s immune cells are able to live longer and provide the body with protection from infections. If the HIV positive partner in a couple is on ART, the likelihood of sexual transmission to the HIV-negative partner decreases dramatically by 96%.

Close to 12 million HIV-positive people had access to ART in low- and middle-income countries in 2013

Reaching the goal of treatment for all remains a huge challenge. About 85% of all people living with HIV are eligible for ART, according to the treatment criteria in the 2013 WHO consolidated guidelines.

An estimated 3.2 million children are living with HIV

According to 2013 figures most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Over 240 000 children [210 000–280 000] became newly infected with HIV in 2013.

Mother-to-child-transmission of HIV is almost entirely avoidable

Access to preventive interventions remains limited in many low- and middle-income countries. But progress has been made in some areas such as prevention of mother-to-child transmission and keeping mothers alive. In 2013, 7 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV – 970 000 women – received antiretrovirals.

HIV is the strongest risk factor for developing active TB disease

In 2013, approximately 360 000 deaths from tuberculosis occurred among people living with HIV. That is one fourth of the estimated 1.5 million deaths from HIV in that year. The majority of people living with both HIV and TB reside in sub-Saharan Africa (about 78% of cases worldwide).


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