GENEVA — The share of people with HIV who have access to medical treatment has risen above 50 percent for the first time, the United Nations reported Thursday in Geneva.
In addition, the annual number of people who die from AIDS has nearly halved from 1.9 million to 1 million between 2005 and 2016, according to the UNAIDS agency.
Last year, there were 36.7 million people around the world who were living with the virus that weakens the immune system and can lead to AIDS. Among them, 53 percent were able to get medicine that suppresses the virus.
Southern and eastern Africa have seen the most dramatic improvements, with annual new infections dropping by 29 percent since 2010, while annual AIDS fatalities plummeted by 42 percent.
In these two African regions, life expectancy has jumped by 10 years in the past decade.
“As we bring the epidemic under control, health outcomes are improving and nations are becoming stronger,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said.
Amid the overall positive trend, UNAIDS sounded the alarm over developments in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the only world regions where HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are on the rise.
An estimated 42 percent of the infections in these regions are caused by contaminated needles that are used to inject drugs.
Northern Africa and the Middle East are two additional problem areas. Only one out of five people living with HIV in these regions is getting medicine to suppress the virus, UNAIDS said.