Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on November 11, 2011

How many people have HIV?

Do you know how many people have HIV in the world and in the United States?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 11, 2011

That’s a good question and one that can be a little hard to measure. That said, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have reliable estimates.

Globally, the UNAIDS 2010 Global Report estimated that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was 33.3 million at the end of 2009. Despite efforts to reduce HIV transmission around the globe, there are still an estimated 2.6 million new infections world-wide every year.

And unfortunately the burden of disease rests heavily on developing countries and on the region of Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular. There, UNAIDS estimates that at least 22.5 million people are infected with HIV (this equates to almost 70% of the world’s HIV-infected people.) Annually, about 1.8 million people die from complications related to HIV/AIDS around the world.

In the United States, the prevalence of HIV infection is much lower than the rest of the world, but is still a significant concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that at the end of 2008, about 1,178,350 people older than 12 were living with HIV and that about 50,000 people become newly infected each year. Sadly, the CDC also estimates that 20% of people infected with HIV have undiagnosed infections.

That’s why, if you’ve never been tested for HIV, it’s a good idea to do so. It’s possible to have HIV for as long as 10 years without noticing symptoms. In other words, testing is the only way to know if you have HIV or not. And if it turns out you do have HIV, you’ll know to get HIV treatment to help you stay healthy.

You can learn more about HIV and HIV testing in our Expert guide to HIV. And thanks for your question about HIV prevalence.

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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