Dedicated efforts to fight the AIDS virus and tuberculosis are paying off: both infections are on the decline, according to new research published Monday. And while more people are being infected with malaria, fewer people are dying from it, especially children.
The new report from researchers at the University of Washington shows 30 million people are currently infected with HIV. That’s more than 18 percent fewer than what the United Nations reports – UNAIDS says 35 million people are infected with HIV globally, and that 36 million people have died from AIDS-related illness since the pandemic began in the 1980s.
In 2013, 1.8 million people were newly diagnosed with HIV and 1.3 million died from it, Dr. Christopher Murray and colleagues at the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found. That’s down from a 2005 peak of 1.7 million deaths in 2005.
As for TB, 11.9 million people are infected globally, with 7.5 million new cases a year. TB kills 1.4 million people every year, the study found.
“Worldwide, deaths from HIV/AIDS declined at a rate of 1.5 percent between 2000 and 2013, while tuberculosis deaths declined at a rate of 3.7 percent,” they wrote in their report, published in the Lancet medical journal.
There’s good news on malaria, too. “Since 2004, child deaths from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa have declined 31.5 percent,” Murray’s team wrote. “Annual malaria deaths began to decline from a peak of 1.2 million in 2004 to about 855,000 in 2013,” they added.
The University of Washington team focused on these three diseases because they’re the target of special UN efforts. The idea is that if there’s a specific goal to lower disease diagnoses and deaths, it’s easier to get people to pay attention and focus.
It’s especially true with infectious diseases such as HIV and TB, where treatment can make a big difference. TB is curable with antibiotics, but it takes time and people must take the drugs consistently and as directed. There’s no cure for HIV, but cocktails of antiviral drugs can control it, keep patients healthy and make it much less likely they’ll infect someone else.
They are also three major killers and so far there’s no good vaccine against any of them.
The study was released to coincide with the international AIDS conference in Melbourne, where researchers and activists alike advocate for countries and donors to work harder to get cheap or free drugs to patients in poor countries who need help the most.
“The global investment in HIV treatment is saving lives at a rapid clip,” Murray said. “But the quality of antiretroviral programs varies widely. In order to reduce HIV-related deaths even further, we need to learn from the best programs and do away with the worst ones.”
It can be easy to see where programs do and don’t work. “HIV rates in Botswana, for example, are 15 times higher than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 40 times higher than in Niger,” Murray’s team wrote in the report.
A different study published last week showed that fewer Americans are being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.
CDC says more than 1.1 million people in the United States are infected with HIV, and almost 16 percent don’t know because they have not been tested.
Murray’s team says their numbers differ from the UN’s because they used different methods to calculate how many people are sick and how many died. Both the UN and the University of Washington use data released by countries and make projections from them, as most countries cannot keep anything near an exact count of cases and deaths.