How Many People Have Died of HIV?

Despite reversals in AIDS deaths, challenges remain

Expanded access to antiretroviral therapy has profoundly lowered the rate of HIV-related deaths, both in the U.S. and globally. Some of the greatest reversal has been seen in sub-Saharan Africa, the region where by the year 2000, HIV became the leading cause of death.

Tulip rests on the engraved names of people who have died of AIDS on the Circle of Friends memorial
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this downward trend points us in the right direction toward reaching the goals of placing the majority of the world's HIV population on treatment by 2030.

AIDS Death in 2018

According to the WHO, 32 million people have died of HIV since the beginning of the epidemic. Moreover, of the 37.9 million people living with HIV today, just over 770,000 died in 2018. All told, in 2018, AIDS-related deaths were 56% less than in 2004.

In the U.S., an estimated 700,000 Americans have died of HIV-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic in 1981.

With regards to per-country estimates, here is how AIDS-related mortality was distributed among the top 20 affected countries in 2018:

  1. South Africa: 71,000
  2. Mozambique: 54,000
  3. Nigeria: 53,000
  4. Indonesia: 38,000
  5. Kenya: 25,000
  6. United Republic of Tanzania: 24,000
  7. Uganda: 23,000
  8. Zimbabwe: 22,000
  9. Cameroon: 18,000
  10. Thailand: 18,000
  11. Zambia: 17,000
  12. Cote d'Ivoire: 16,000
  13. Ghana: 14,000
  14. Angola: 14,000
  15. Democratic Republic of Congo: 13,000
  16. Malawi: 13,000
  17. South Sudan: 9,900
  18. Ethiopia: 11,000
  19. Brazil: 9,900
  20. Myanmar: 7,800

Gains and Losses

The reduction in HIV deaths is closely aligned with regional reductions in new infection rates. The decreases are greatest in the regions most affected by HIV, East Africa and Southern Africa, where HIV deaths have been on the decline since 2010.

The same has not been in seen in 50 other countries where the new infection rate continues to climb. This includes Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russia where the new HIV infection rate has increased by 27% between 2010 and 2018. Similarly, in the Middle East and North Africa, the new infection rate has also increased.

The Way Forward

As of 2018, 23.3 million people living with HIV were recieving treatment globally, up from 8 million in 2010. Newly expanded guidelines now recommend treating all people with HIV at the time of diagnosis, irrespective of age, immune status, income, or region.

While challenges to ending the epidemic remain, the WHO and United Nation Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have decided to fast-track those goals with their ambitious 90-90-90 strategy which aims to achieve the following goals for 2020:

  • Diagnosing 90% of people living with HIV worldwide
  • Placing 90% of the diagnosed population on antiretroviral therapy
  • Achieving an undetectable viral load in 90% of people on therapy

However, challenges remain as infection rates continue to soar in Russia and Central Asia, due mainly to injection drug use. Even in countries like South Africa, which has seen a reversal in HIV-related deaths, new infection rates have increased.

In 2018, there were 37,832 people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. and six dependent areas. While that's down from 1995, the country's ongoing failure to reduce the new infection rates suggest that little will change in the next decade.

To that end, the U.S. has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest HIV incidence and prevalence of all developed, industrialized nations.

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Article Sources
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