Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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HIV-AIDS: Report from 20th Int’l Conference

The following excerpt from a report written by Fr. Joe Fedora, MM was published in the September-October 2014 NewsNotes. Fr. Fedora lives in Lima, Peru, where he accompanies people who live with HIV and AIDS; he attended the 20th International AIDS Conference (often listed with Roman numerals, XX) held July 20-25 in Melbourne, Australia. His report in its entirety can be found in a PDF file at the bottom of this page.

Approximately 12,000 delegates participated [in the conference] – a reduction by nearly half the number present at the 2012 conference in Washington, D.C. I suspect distance along with government and NGO budget cuts played a role in the reduction. … [Fr. Fedora noted the lack of Latin American representation; only a few participants from Spanish-speaking countries were present, and, he writes, "If there was any literature or information in Spanish, I couldn’t find it."]

Some facts about the state of the HIV epidemic:

In 2013:

  • 35.3 million people were living with HIV worldwide, including 3.3 million children.
  • The global prevalence rate (the percentage of people aged 15-49 who are infected) was 0.8 percent.
  • There were 2.3 million new HIV infections, including 260,000 children.
  • Approximately 95 percent are in low- and middle-income countries.
  • About 700 infections a day are in children under 15 years of age.
  • An estimated 6,000 new HIV infections a day are in adults aged 15 years and older, of whom:
    • Almost 47 percent are among women, and about 39 percent are among young people (15-24)
  • 1.6 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses.
  • Although the testing capacity has increased over time; the majority of people with HIV are still unaware that they are infected.
  • As of 2013, approximately 13 million people have access to antiretroviral treatment, about 37 percent of those infected with HIV.

Since the beginning of the epidemic:

  • 78 million people have been infected with HIV.
  • Approximately 39 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses.
  • It is estimated that each day 6,000 individuals worldwide are infected with HIV. That’s one person infected every 25 seconds.

Many of the countries hardest hit by HIV also suffer from other serious issues, for example, infectious diseases, poverty and food insecurity.

HIV and tuberculosis

  • HIV is the strongest risk factor for the development of tuberculosis (TB). One third of people living with HIV (PLHIV) are co-infected with latent TB. People co-infected with TB and HIV are 21-34 times more likely to develop active TB disease than people living without HIV.
  • In 2011 it was estimated that 79 percent of TB and HIV co-infection occurs in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • TB is estimated to cause one in four AIDS-related deaths. In 2011, approximately 430,000 people died of HIV-associated TB. A majority of these deaths occur in Africa, where the mortality rate from HIV-related TB is more than 20 times higher than in other world regions.
  • With inexpensive drugs, TB is both preventable and curable. Evidence has shown that early initiation of [anti-retroviral treatment, ART] significantly reduces the risk of death amongst HIV-positive people who are co-infected with TB.
  • Of the TB patients who were known to be HIV positive in 2011, 48 percent (over 258,000) were enrolled on ART.

Women at higher risk of HIV infection

  • In 2013, women represented approximately 57 percent of all adults living with HIV worldwide. Women are biologically more susceptible to HIV. In addition to suffering from gender inequalities, discrimination and violence can also increase their vulnerability to infection.
  • Young women (aged 15-24) have an especially high risk of acquiring HIV, with infection rates twice as high than in young men. In 2013, about half of all PLHIV were women, and in 2010, young women accounted for 22 percent of all new HIV infections. HIV is the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age and every minute, a young woman is newly infected with HIV.
  • Several structural factors – including poverty, discrimination and stigma – interact to prevent a better access to essential information, prevention and treatment services amongst these vulnerable communities.
  • In addition, in 2010, in low- and middle-income countries, only 24 percent of young women and 36 percent of young men responded correctly when asked five questions on HIV prevention and HIV transmission. Despite an increase in HIV-related knowledge, globally, less than 30 percent of young women have comprehensive and correct knowledge of HIV. … An aggravating factor in the lack of basic HIV knowledge amongst women is that they account for two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults of which there are 796 million.

Trends in the last decade

  • The number of PLHIV has increased from 31.7 million in 2003 to 35.3 million in 2013, as a result of continuing new infections, people living longer with HIV, and general population growth.
  • The global prevalence rate (0.8 percent in 2013) has leveled since 2001.
  • The number of people newly infected with HIV has declined in the last decade, contributing to the stabilization of the epidemic. The estimated numbers of children acquiring HIV in low- and middle-income countries have decreased from 536,000 in 2000, to 320,000 in 2012.
  • The number of AIDS-related deaths has also declined in the last decade. In 2013, the number of AIDS-related deaths – 1.6 million – fell down from a peak of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s, due a growing availability of ART.
  • At the end of December 2009, since the advent of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) in 1996, it is estimated that HAART has saved an estimated 14.4 million life-years worldwide.
  • As of April 2011, 47 countries, territories and areas imposed some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV. However, in a more positive development, China, Namibia and the U.S. lifted their HIV-related travel restrictions in 2010, while Ecuador and India clarified that no such restrictions were in place.
  • The number of pregnant women living with HIV has remained relatively stable since 2005.

Photo of memorial to Malaysian Air flight 17, displayed at XXth International AIDS conference, by Fieldafar [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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