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HIV and AIDS is a global epidemic

Information sourceInternet2013-01-25


When AIDS first started, no one could have predicted how the epidemic would spread across the world and how many millions of lives it would change. There was no real idea what caused it and consequently no real idea how to protect against it.

Now we know from bitter experience that HIV is the cause of AIDS and that it can devastate families, communities and whole countries. We have seen the epidemic knock decades off countries' national development, widen the gulf between rich and poor nations and push already stigmatised groups closer to the margins of society. We are living in an 'international' society, and HIV has become the first truly 'international' epidemic, easily crossing oceans and borders.

However, experience has also shown us that the right approaches, applied quickly enough with courage and resolve, can and do result in lower national HIV infection rates and less suffering for those affected by the epidemic. We have learned that if a country acts early enough, a national HIV crisis can be averted.

It has been noted that a country with a very high HIV prevalence will often see this eventually stabilise, and even decline. In some cases this indicates, among other things, that people are beginning to change risky behaviour patterns, because they have seen and known people who have been killed by AIDS. It can also indicate that a large number of people are dying of AIDS.

Already, more than 30 million people around the world have died of AIDS-related diseases.1 In 2010, 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV, and 1.8 million men, women and children died of AIDS-related causes. 34 million people around the world are now living with HIV.