Friday, July 6, 2012


Ever wondered just how big the global AIDS problem is? Let’s see if we can give a little quantitative scope to this planet-wide pandemic.
Right now, 34 million people are living with HIV. Most of them—22.9 million—are in Africa, the continent from which the disease originated. 9 African countries suffer from a prevalence rate greater than 10 percent. One in ten carries HIV. Of those 9 countries, 3 are especially devastated. Though South Africa has the greatest total number of victims in the world, with 5.6 million South Africans (17.8%) infected with HIV, 24.8% of Botswana’s population has the virus. Regionally, Southern Africa is the hottest hot spot, Eastern Africa (Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania among others) are moderate by African standards (meaning still bad—6-8%), and West Africa is doing relatively well. However, certain West African countries harbor huge numbers of HIV victims, e.g. Nigeria, whose 3.3 million infectees account for 10% of the global HIV+ population. A final statistic—in Africa, women are disproportionately at risk for HIV—59% of new infections in take hold in females.
Though Africa is by far the hardest hit region of the world, HIV has reached everywhere else as well. The absolute prevalence estimate in Asia is 4.8 million people, half of them in India, and most countries’ prevalence rates are about 1%. In many cases, as in China, the HIV+ population is concentrated within a few provinces of a country. In Eastern Europe, 1.5 million people carry HIV, with Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic States being the worst affected. The Caribbean, whose prevalence rates are higher than anywhere but Africa, averages 2%. Latin American has 1.5 million victims, most of them in Brazil due to that country’s size. Little Belize is a hotspot, with a prevalence rate of 2%. In highly developed countries (the US, Western Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand), a total of 2.2 million people have HIV. In these countries, information about transmission prevention is widely available, leading to generally safer sexual behavior. On the other hand, the dismissive attitude that HIV is a problem only for poorer countries sometimes leads to riskier choices.
Looking at the broader picture, as of 2011, AIDS’s total death toll was 30 million, and as 1.8 million of those casualties were lost in 2010, by now the real number of lives taken has likely grown close to 33 million. The number of HIV+ individuals who die annually is less than the number of new HIV infections yearly—meaning more and more people are living with the virus with time. In 2010, there were 50% more new infections than deaths. 2.7 million people contracted HIV; 1.8 million others died from it.
There were 3.4 million children living with HIV in 2010, and 290,000 became infected that year. Every hour, 30 kids die from AIDS. Nine tenths of them are in Africa.
So, yeah, it’s huge. This is a problem of historic proportions. It will require a concerted, unified movement on the part of societies, their governments, and the international community to defeat the virus and ensure the health of the world’s population. Individually, we cannot do it all. But before we get lost in the numbers, it is important to remember that we can do something that matters to some AIDS victims. We, even individually, can end the threat of HIV for some people, and it’s important that we do so. Find out how you can make a difference by exploring our main website.

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