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World AIDS Day has been held on 1 December each year since 1988, when it was introduced as the first official World Health Organisation (WHO) health day, mandated by the World Health Assembly.

In 2016, UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) stated that although the world was “on track” to reach the target to reduce AIDS-related deaths and “steep declines” had been secured in the annual number of new HIV infections among children, “problems” remained with HIV prevention globally. It stated that declines in new HIV infections among adults had slowed, “threatening further progress towards the end of the AIDS epidemic”, and that since 2010, the annual number of new infections among adults (aged over 15) had “remained static at an estimated 1.9 million”. This meant that efforts to reach fewer than 500,000 new HIV infections by 2020, as a milestone on the road to ‘end AIDS by 2030’ were therefore “off track”.

In November 2016, the WHO estimated that more people globally—2.1 million—had become infected with HIV during the course of 2015. The WHO also stated that approximately 36.7 million people were living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2015, of whom 18.2 million were receiving antiretroviral treatment.

In 2014, Public Health England (PHE) estimated that 103,700 people were living with HIV in the UK, of whom 69,200 were men and 34,400 were women. In addition, an estimated 18,100 (17 percent) of this total population “were unaware of their infection and at risk of unknowingly passing on HIV if having sex without a condom”. PHE added that the estimated number and proportion of people living with undiagnosed HIV had declined since 2010 (from 22,800 and 25 percent respectively), with the majority of this decline taking place before 2012.

For further information on HIV/AIDS in the UK, see the House of Lords Library briefing HIV Infection in the United Kingdom


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