How Many People Have Died of HIV?

Despite a reversals in AIDS deaths, challenges remain

A single tulip rests on the engraved names of people who have died of AIDS on the Circle of Friends memorial before a service at the National AIDS Memorial Grove December 1, 2009 in San Francisco
Names of people who have died of AIDS on the Circle of Friends Memorial (2009). Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

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 have been seen in sub-Saharan Africa, the region of which accounts for 75 percent of all HIV infections.

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 out of the 74.9 million who have been infected (roughly 43 percent). Moreover, of the 37.9 million people living with HIV today, just over 770,000 died in 2018.

All told, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by more than 56 percent since the peak in 2004.

In the United States, 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:

  1. South Africa: 71,000
  2. Mozambique: 64,000
  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: 13,000
  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 new infections 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 is Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russia where the new HIV infection rate has doubled. Similarly, in the Middle East and North Africa, the new infection rate has increased over the past 20 years.

The Way Forward

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

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

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

However, challenges remain as infection rates continue to soar in Russia and Central Asia, due mainly to injecting drug use. Even in countries like South Africa, which has seen a reversal in HIV-related deaths, new infection rates were seen to have increased from 370,000 to 470,000 in the country's latest surveillance report.

In 2017, there were 16,350 deaths among adults and adolescents with diagnosed HIV in the United States and 6 dependent areas. While that's down from 1995 when it was the leading cause of death, 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

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. HIV/AIDS data and statistics. 2018

  2. World Health Organization. Number of deaths due to HIV/AIDS. 2018

  3. World Health Organization. Number of people (all ages) living with HIV  estimates by WHO region. Updated August 2, 2019.

  4. AVERT. HIV and AIDS in East and Southern Africa regional overview. Updated October 31, 2019

  5. AVERT. HIV and AIDS Eastern Europe and Central Asia overview. Updated October 1, 2019.

  6. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, HIV.gov. Global HIV/AIDS overview. Updated July 31, 2019.

  7. UN AIDS. 90–90–90 - An ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic. 2017

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV basic statistics. Reviewed November 22, 2019.

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