The information here is provided by courtesy of the Network's short online course - "An Introduction to Global Health". 


HIV : HIV is short for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus which is normally confined to primates. The AIDS epidemic in humans began in the 1980s and originated in central Africa. The virus targets the immune system and weakens people’s defence against many infections and some types of cancer. The virus is transmitted from human to human through body fluids.


AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) : AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection, which can take many years to develop if not treated. AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infectious or other severe long term clinical manifestations.




There are more deaths are as a consequence of HIV/AIDS than there are from malaria. In the 1990s and early 2000s it was the cause of more than 1 in 3 deaths in several countries, with it accounting for half of annual deaths in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s. As most deaths occur in adults, not infrequently a father and mother, this has meant that large numbers of children lost their parents and became orphans. (Figure 1)


Figure 1





Death rates are highest in the 15 – 49 year age group - those of working age and parenthood (Figure 2). It particularly affects people in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Map 1).


Figure 2





Map 1




The reduced immunity created by HIV/AIDS leads to susceptibility to other infections, particularly TB. Many people with HIV/AIDS die from TB and the estimate rates are shown in Map 2. 


Map 2







New infections have been falling as have deaths. Anti-Retroviral Treatments (ART) have improved over time and many people are alive and remain well by taking these drugs. As a consequence the number of people living with HIV has been increasing. (Figure 3)


Figure 3 





What is WHO doing? 


WHO leads the “Global health sector strategy on HIV for 2016–2021”. The themes of this are


  • Information for focused action (know your epidemic and response)
  • Interventions for impact (covering the range of services needed)
  • Delivering for equity (covering the populations in need of services)
  • Financing for sustainability (covering the costs of services)
  • Innovation for acceleration (looking towards the future).


Further reading


WHO : HIV/AIDS Overview


Global health sector strategy on HIV, 2016 - 2021


WHO : HIV/AIDS Factsheet


WHO : Country Intelligence Profiles


WHO : Data and statistics


WHO : Data on the size of the HIV/AIDS epidemic 


Our World In Data :






HIV/AIDS image