In Summary
  • AIDS-related deaths have declined by almost 50 percent since a peak of 1.9 million in 2005, to one million last year, helped by the rollout of HIV drugs, which repress the virus but do not eliminate it.
  • However more than two-thirds of those infected — 25.2 million — live south of the Sahara.
  • And, among the 1.16 million new infections in Africa last year, more than one in 10 occurred among children aged under 14.
  • For this highly vulnerable group, "prevention efforts must be stepped up," said Sidibe.

The head of the UN's AIDS agency on Monday urged African countries to protect young women and children who are bearing the brunt of the continent's AIDS epidemic.

A sharp rise of people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has now slowed, "but now is not the time to drop our guard," Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, told the start of a six-day conference on HIV/AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases in Africa.

"The many changes under way in our world should not threaten the sustainability of our great achievements in the AIDS response," he warned.

"We cannot afford to lose our gains. If we want to end this epidemic, we must act now and act differently."

About 36.7 million people in the world lived with HIV in 2016, compared with 36.1 million in 2015 and 35.5 million in 2014, according to UNAIDS figures.

AIDS-related deaths have declined by almost 50 percent since a peak of 1.9 million in 2005, to one million last year, helped by the rollout of HIV drugs, which repress the virus but do not eliminate it.

However more than two-thirds of those infected — 25.2 million — live south of the Sahara.

And, among the 1.16 million new infections in Africa last year, more than one in 10 occurred among children aged under 14.

For this highly vulnerable group, "prevention efforts must be stepped up," said Sidibe.

In some parts of east Africa, he said, girls aged 15-19 account for 74 percent of new teenage infections — a figure that rises to more than 90 percent in southern Africa, he said.

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