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Millions of lives have been saved, awareness is widespread, but hurdles remain as World AIDS Day is observed

In just six months between January and June, an additional 1 million HIV-infected people gained access to lifesaving treatment, according to figures announced in advance of World AIDS Day on Thursday.

The news came as several promising studies of drugs that could hasten the elimination of the disease are headed toward preliminary human trials.

According  to the United Nations Program on AIDS, huge progress has been made since 2000 and millions of lives have been saved, “but there are still important milestones to reach, barriers to break and frontiers to cross,” the agency said.

Data released by UNAIDS show that many countries are doubling down on efforts to treat and limit the spread of the virus, but their actions need to be sustained and increased in order to achieve the U.N. goal of ending the AIDS epidemic across the globe by 2030.

In June, the U.S. marked 35 years since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first cases of a puzzling illness that was initially thought to primarily afflict gay men and would eventually become the global pandemic known as HIV/AIDS. Fear and panic and misunderstanding ensued.  

Today, awareness about the disease is widespread, and effective treatment is helping those with HIV to extend their lives.

Here are some facts and figures from the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS. 

The data are from 2015 and 2016.

36.7 million

The number of people living with HIV across the globe.

Esther Abraham, a terminally ill HIV-positive woman, walks outside her shelter in Juba, South Sudan.
Esther Abraham, a terminally ill HIV-positive woman, walks outside her shelter in Juba, South Sudan. (Albert Gonzalez Farran / AFP/Getty Images)

18.2 million

The number of people accessing life-saving antiretroviral medicines as of June 2016.

The figure has more than doubled since 2010, when about 7.5 million people had access to such treatment.

19 million

The number of HIV-positive people in eastern and southern Africa – the world’s most affected regions. Of those, some 10 million have access to antiretroviral therapy.

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In 2010, only 24% were receiving treatment. Botswana, Eritrea, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe all increased treatment coverage by more than 25% between 2010 and 2015.

Pills are prepared for HIV/AIDS patients in Lopburi, Thailand.
Pills are prepared for HIV/AIDS patients in Lopburi, Thailand. (Taylor Weidman / Getty Images)

2.1 million

The estimated number of new HIV infections among adults worldwide in 2015, down from 2.2 million in 2010.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia have seen an increase in new infections. Russia has the largest HIV epidemic in the region, with more than 100,000 new HIV infections reported by the government in 2015, according to UNAIDS. The agency estimates that 1.5 million people were living with HIV in eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2015, up from 1 million in 2010.

Students wearing traditional outfits release white balloons during an HIV/AIDS awareness rally in at the University of Peoples' Friendship in Moscow in May.
Students wearing traditional outfits release white balloons during an HIV/AIDS awareness rally in at the University of Peoples' Friendship in Moscow in May. (Kirill Kydryavtsev / AFP/Getty Images)

35 million

The number of people who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the pandemic, out of the more than 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus, according to the World Health Organization.

Last year, 1.1 million people died worldwide, compared with 2 million in 2005.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV — and 1 in 8 don't know they have it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV — and 1 in 8 don't know they have it. (Fotolia / Mayo Clinic)

$19 billion

The amount of funding allocated for the global HIV response in 2015.

2030

The year the global community is committed to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

ann.simmons@latimes.com

For more global development news follow @AMSimmons1 on Twitter

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UPDATES:

Dec. 1, 1:15 p.m.:  This article has been updated with new figures issued to coincide with World AIDS Day.

This article was originally posted June 27, 2016 at 2 a.m.

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