How Many People Die From HIV Each Year?

Despite fewer deaths, numbers remain alarming

A tulip bulb rests against a memorial.

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When the AIDS epidemic emerged 35-plus years ago, most everyone died of an AIDS-related condition soon after diagnosis. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. But in some parts of the world, people are still dying at very alarming rates.

With that being said, the number of deaths is the lowest it has been since the peak in 2004. Expanding access to antiretroviral therapy and earlier diagnosis have helped turn around rates in many high-prevalence countries, including some of the hardest hit in Southern Africa.

As of the latest surveillance from the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), it is estimated that there are 36.8 million people living with HIV in the world today. Of these, approximately two million were newly infected with the virus over the course of the year.

The number of AIDS-related deaths, meanwhile, topped 1.1 million—a figure that, while vastly improved from previous years, should still be considered shocking and even unacceptable.

Consider, for example, that in South African nearly 400 people die of an AIDS-related illness each day despite noble efforts by the government to get citizens tested and treated.

Can you imagine what would happen if any infectious disease in America resulted in 140,000 deaths per year? Even at the height of the epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, we never approached those numbers in the U.S., and South Africa has less than 1/6th of our population.

AIDS Death Statistics

Here are the latest statistics as reported by UNAIDS:

  • The 1.1 million AIDS-related deaths in 2016 add to the worldwide total of 39 million deaths reported since the beginning of the epidemic. While high, the number of AIDS deaths is still 42 percent of what it was back in 2004.
  • Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of deaths in people with HIV, accounting for one of every AIDS-related mortalities. Africa accounts for the majority of TB deaths.
  • 790,000 deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa, which is nearly half of what it was in 2004.
  • Around 240,000 deaths were reported in Asia and the Pacific, a drop of 11 percent from 2014.
  • 41,000 people died in Latin America, while the Caribbean accounted for an additional 8,000.
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia were the two regions where the death rate increased from 2004 to 2014, nearly trebling in that size due to high rates of injecting drug use in the region. The death tally in 2014 was just over 62,000.
  • Meanwhile, North America and Western and Central Europe accounted for 26,000 AIDS deaths. Disappointingly, the United States represented half of these (13,712) and has the unfortunate distinction of being the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the region. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the U.S. has had over 658,000 deaths attributed to HIV/AIDS.

With all of this being said, there have been 45 percent fewer deaths overall since the peak in 2005, due largely to the fact that 17 million people around the world have been prescribed antiretroviral therapy. As mortality rates continue to decline among people living with HIV, so do other key statistics:

  • Worldwide, new HIV infections have fallen by 6 percent since 2010.
  • New HIV infections among children have declined by 50 percent, due to the ​prevention of mother-to-child transmission in 77 percent of mothers with HIV.
  • Tuberculosis deaths, still the leading cause of mortality among people living with HIV worldwide, have fallen by 32 percent since 2004.
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