13 Things to Know About HIV/AIDS on World AIDS Day

New infections are down and wider use of pre-exposure prophylaxis would decrease them further.

December 1 was designated as World AIDS Day in 1988 as a way to focus attention on the infectious disease that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths worldwide. The first cases of what later was recognized as AIDS were reported in June 1981 and more than 700,000 people in the U.S.. have died from AIDS-related disease over the past four decades. About 37.7 million people around the worlds were living with HIV in 2020, according to UNAIDS, and about 1.2 million in the U.S, are living with the infection.

Here are 13 things to know about HIV/AIDS on World AIDS Day:

1. In 2021, the HIV epidemic will be in decline in most countries. In the United States, the number of new infections will be about 35,000 per year, down from about 50,000 per year in 2010. The age-adjusted death rate has fallen from 10.2 per 100,000 in 1990 to 1.5 in 2018, the latest year for which that statistic has been computed. HIV incidence declined 8% from 2015 to 2019.

2. Gay and bisexual men accounted for about 23,100, or roughly two-thirds, of the new HIV infections in the U.S. 2019. New infections have been falling significantly among White men who have sex with men but not among Black and Latino men who have sex with men.

3. Health officials estimate that about 13%, or 156,000 people, of the 1.2 million people in the U.S. who have HIV don’t know it.

4. In 2019, there were 15,815 deaths among people in the U.S. with diagnosed HIV infections but that figure includes death from any cause, not just deaths that can be attributed directly to HIV.

5. All insurers must now cover HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) without out-of-pocket costs to the patient under the Preventive Health Services

6. In October, HHS announced approximately $2.21 billion in Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funding for cities, counties, states, and local community-based organizations.

7. Earlier this year, the FDA approved a new treatment, Cabenuva, that contains two HIV drugs, cabotegravir and rilpivirine. As a monthly injectable, it may help improve adherence.

8. Antiretroviral treatment has transformed HIV/AIDS from being an acute, life-threatening condition to one that can be managed for a lifetime. It has also changed the public health profile of HIV/AIDS. “If a person living with HIV consistently takes their antiretroviral medications, they will mostly achieve viral suppression to the point that a person cannot transmit the virus sexually, so that treatment is actually a form of prevention,” notes Sebastian Seiguer, J.D., MBA, CEO of emocha Health, a medication adherence company in Baltimore.

9.. As of June 2021, 28.2 million people in the world were “accessing” antiretroviral therapy, up from 7.8 million in 2010, according to UNAI

10. Women account for nearly 25% of HIV cases in the U.S. and 51% of all infections worldwide.

11. Due to advances in treatment and increased life expectancy, it is now estimated that three- quarters of people living with HIV globally are expected to be older than 50 by 2030.

12. There are critical medications which are available to manage (but not cure) HIV. When patients take their medication consistently, their viral loads go down and chances of transmission decrease.

13. Some of the newer and most promising treatment for drugs include dolutegravir, elvitegravir, rilpivirine and cabotegravir. All of these drugs were developed after 2000 and are just beginning to come to market now.