HIV/AIDS Fact sheet

Key facts about HIV/AIDS


  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infects cells of the immune system and destroys or impairs their function. Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body's ability to fend off infections and diseases. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or related cancers.
  • HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person; transfusions of contaminated blood; and the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes or other sharp instruments. It can also be transmitted between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
  • 33.4 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide, the vast majority of whom are in low- and middle-income countries.An estimated 2.7 million people were newly infected with the virus in 2008.
  • HIV/AIDS is the world’s leading infectious killer claiming—to date—more than 27 million lives. An estimated 2 million people die every year from HIV/AIDS.
  • About 5.2 million HIV-positive people had access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in low- and middle-income countries at the end of 2009.This represents a twelvefold increase since 2003. Despite these gains, global coverage of ART is still low. WHO's 2010 treatment guidelines have expanded the number of people recommended for HIV treatment from an estimated 10 million to an estimated 15 million.
  • More than 2 million children are living with HIV/AIDS, according to 2008 figures. Most of the children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Almost 1200 children become newly infected with HIV each day.The number of children receiving ART increased from about 75 000 in 2005 to 355 000 in 2009.
  • Mother-to-child-transmission is almost entirely avoidable, but access to preventive interventions remains low in most developing low- and middle-income countries. However, progress has been made. In 2008,45% of pregnant women living with HIV received antiretrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, up from 10% in 2004.
  • In 2007, more than 450 000 deaths from tuberculosis occurred among people living with HIV. This is equal to nearly a quarter of the estimated 2 million deaths from HIV in that year. The majority of people living with both HIV and TB reside in sub-Saharan Africa (about 80% of cases worldwide), of whom around one quarter are in South Africa.


Types of Antiretrovirals and How they work


  • Different types of ARVs act in different ways to prevent the replication of HIV in the human body. All these are aimed at inhibiting the multiplication of the HIV virus in the human body.
  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NsRTIs) and Nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NtRTIs) act by incorporation into the DNA of the virus (competing with natural nucleotides/nucleosides), thereby stopping the building process of transcription from RNA to DNA. The resulting DNA is incomplete and cannot create a new virus.
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) act by stopping HIV production by binding directly onto reverse transcriptase (non-competitively) and preventing the conversion of RNA to DNA.
  • Protease inhibitors (PIs) act by binding to the viral protease, thereby preventing the correct cleavage of viral proteins. Thus, they prevent HIV from being successfully assembled and released from the infected cells.
  • Fusion inhibitors act by binding to a region of the gp41 transmembrane glycoprotein of HIV and prevent virus–cell fusion.

Digramatic representation of how antiretorvirals work

Human Cell

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