9 Million Have HIV And Don’t Know It

Image: FightHIVinDC, National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, CC BY 2.0

NPR – About 9.4 million people are likely HIV-positive and don’t know it.

That’s a key finding from a new report from UNAIDS — and it’s why the theme of this month’s World AIDS Day is “Know your HIV status.”

That’s an important message, HIV/AIDS specialists say, at a time when the disease no longer makes headlines.

“Some people are under the erroneous impression that the epidemic is done,” says Wafaa El-Sadr, global director of the public-health organization ICAP and a professor at Columbia University.

But HIV/AIDS remains an enormous problem around the world, she says: “Two million new infections in the past year; still about a million deaths every year.”

Knowing your status, she says, is “the foundation” for preventing new infections.

But simply knowing your status is not enough to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic, El-Sadr and other global-health specialists say.

“My big issue with just knowing your status as a theme is that it puts all the burden on the individual,” says Chris Beyrer, the Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, a past president of the International AIDS Society and a doctor whose research has focused on epidemiology and human rights.

While individual responsibility is important, it won’t stop the epidemic on its own, he says.

And the systems are not universally in place to stop new transmissions and improve the health of those who are HIV-positive, Beyrer says. Men Having Sex With Men; Rx-Resistant STD Spreads

Coming Up With The 9 Million Estimate

About 37 million people around the world live with HIV, UNAIDS estimates in its new report. About one-quarter of those people, though, don’t know it.

You may wonder how it’s possible to calculate a number of people who have HIV but have not been tested to confirm their status.

UNAIDS estimates this number by collecting data on the rate of infection in a country and then applying it to a country’s total population … Read more. 

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