How Many People Die from AIDS Each Year?

Despite Fewer Deaths Worldwide, Numbers Remain Alarming

A single tulip rests on the engraved names of people who have died of AIDS on the Circle of Friends memorial before a service at the National AIDS Memorial Grove December 1, 2009 in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

Question: How many people die from AIDS each year?

Answer:  When the AIDS epidemic emerged 30-plus years ago, most everyone die of an AIDS-related condition soon after diagnosis. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. But in some parts of the world, people are still dying at very alarming rates.

With that being said, the number of deaths are the lowest they have been the peak in 2004. Expanding access to antiretroviral therapy and earlier diagnosis have helped turn around rates in many high-prevalence countries, including some of the hardest hit in Southern Africa.

As of the latest surveillance from the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) , its is estimated that there are 36.8 million people living with HIV in the world today. Of these, approximately two million were newly infected with the virus over the course of the year.

The number of AIDS-related deaths, meanwhile, topped 1.2 million—a figure that, while vastly improved from previous years, should still be considered shocking and even unacceptable.

Consider, for example, that in South African nearly 400 people die of an AIDS-related illness each day despite noble efforts by the government to get citizens tested and treated.

Can you imagine what would happen if any infectious disease in America resulted in 140,000 deaths per year? Even at the height of the epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, we never approached those numbers in the U.S., and South Africa has less than 1/6th of our population.

AIDS Death Statistics

Here are the latest statistics as reported by UNAIDS:

  • The 1.2 million AIDS-related deaths in 2014 add to the worldwide total 39 million deaths reported since the beginning of the epidemic. While high, the number of AIDS deaths is still 42% of it was back in 2004.
  • Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of deaths in people with HIV, accounting for one of every AIDS-related mortalities. Africa accounts for the majority of TB deaths.
  • 790,000 deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa, which is nearly half of what it was in 2004.
  • Around 240,000 deaths were reported in Asia and the Pacific, a drop of 11% from 2014.
  • 41,000 people died in Latin America, while the Caribbean accounted for an additional 8,000.
  • Eastern Europe and Central Asia were the two regions where the death rate increased from 2004 to 2014, nearly trebling in that size due to high rates of injecting drug use in the region. The death tally in 2014 was just over 62,000.
  • Meanwhile, North America and Western and Central Europe accounted for 26,000 AIDS deaths. Disappointingly, the United States represented half of these (13,712) and has the unfortunate distinction of being the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the region. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the U.S. has had over 658,000 deaths attributed to HIV/AIDS.

Edited by James Myhre and Dennis Sifris, M.D.


United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). "The Fact Sheet: Global AIDS Statistics 2014." Geneva, Switzerland; accessed December 8, 2015.

UNAIDS. "South Africa | UNAIDS Fact Sheet." Geneva, Switzerland; accessed December 8, 2015.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "HIV in the United States: At a Glance." Atlanta, Georgia; accessed December 15, 2015.

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