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ID week factsheet: HIV

Factsheet #2 – HIV: where are we now?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a retrovirus (in the lentivurus subfamily) affecting the immune system. According to most recent figures, 37.9 million people globally are HIV+ve (2018) with an estimated 1.7million new infections in 2018. There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2, which differ slightly in transmission patterns and overall pathogenesis.

HIV’s effects on the immune system are due to a depletion in the body’s CD4+ T lymphocytes, as well as affecting other immune cells such as macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs). The scale of this CD4+lymphocyte depletion characterises the 3 stages of HIV, with the final stage known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

Just thirty years ago outcomes and prognosis were poor, with few options for treatment and most HIV+ individuals developing AIDS. Thanks to astounding research and drug development, antiretroviral therapy (ART) has meant those with earlier diagnosis and who have access to continued ART therapy can have a normal life expectancy and prognosis. In 2018 23.3million people globally received HRT, accounting for 62% of HIV+ individuals. As a result AIDS-related deaths have decreased by more than half since 2004.

The vast majority of people living with HIV are from less economically developed countries, for example Eastern and Southern Africa. Despite great advances in HIV treatments, lack of access to ART and prevention schemes means that many are suffering the tragic consequences of HIV with little to no chance of treatment. Public and global health initiatives such as the UNAIDS Initiative on HIV/AIDS and Security must continue and grow for wider and fairer access worldwide to HIV treatment.

Sources:, WHO

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