As many as 19 million of the 35 million people living with HIV globally do not know of their HIV-positive status, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said Wednesday in a report.
The UNAIDS Gap report documented the lowest levels of new HIV infections this century, at 2.1 million. In the last three years alone. new HIV infections have fallen by 13 percent.
It is estimated that 35 million people were living with HIV in the world at the end of 2013. AIDS-related deaths are at their lowest since the peak in 2005, having declined by 35 percent. Tuberculosis continues to be the leading cause of death among people living with HIV.
"Smarter scale-up is needed to close the gap between people who know their HIV status and people who don't, people who can get services and people who can't and people who are protected and people who are punished," Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement.
The report highlighted that efforts to increase access to anti-retroviral (ART) are working. In 2013, an additional 2.3 million people gained access to the life-saving medicines. This brings the global number of people accessing ART to nearly 13 million by the end of 2013.
"If we accelerate all HIV scale-up by 2020, we will be on track to end the epidemic by 2030," said Sidibe. "If not, we risk significantly increasing the time it would take -- adding a decade, if not more."
By ending the epidemic by 2030, the world would avert 18 million new HIV infections and 11.2 million AIDS-related deaths between 2013 and 2030.
The report revealed that just 15 countries account for more than 75 percent of the 2.1 million new HIV infections that occurred in 2013. In sub-Saharan Africa, just three countries -- Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda -- account for 48 percent of all new HIV infections.
It analyzed the reasons for the widening gap between people gaining access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and people being left behind, adding that focus on populations that are underserved and at higher risk of HIV will be key to ending the AIDS epidemic.
However, the report warned that a lack of data on people most affected by HIV, coupled with widespread stigma and discrimination, punitive legal environments, barriers to civil society engagement and lack of investment in tailored programs are holding back results.
The highest number of people living with HIV was in sub-Saharan Africa at 24.7 million. Asia and the Pacific had the next largest population of people living with HIV, at an estimated 4.8 million people.
The percentage of people living with HIV who were receiving treatment was found to be highest in Western Europe and North America at 51 percent and in Latin America at 45 percent. However, coverage was lowest in the Middle East and North Africa at just 11 percent.
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