How Many People Have Died of AIDS?

Despite Reversals in AIDS Deaths, Concerns Remain

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

Expanded access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) has profoundly lowered the rate of AIDS-related deaths, both in the U.S. and globally. The impact of such reductions can be found most predominantly in the Sub-Saharan regions of Africa, where 75% of all HIV infections are centered.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), such reductions could help global health officials reach the target 90% drop in AIDS-related deaths by 2030.

Among some of the current statistics:

  • Since the beginning of the epidemic, 39 million have died of AIDS or HIV-related causes.
  • Of the 37 million people living with HIV today, an estimated 1.5 million died in 2013, a drop of 22% from 2009 estimates and 35% from 2005.
  • Deaths among children dropped even more profoundly: by 31% compared to 2009 levels and 40% from 2005 levels.
  • Global ART programs are estimated to have averted 7.6 million deaths between 1995 and 2013.
  • In Africa, an estimated 1.1 million people died of AIDS in 2013. While representing 65% of global AIDS deaths, that figure represent a drop of 24% from 2009 levels.
  • In the Caribbean, where infection rates run high, 8,800 deaths were reported in 2014 among an HIV population of 280,000.
  • Similarly, in Latin America, 41,000 deaths were attributed to HIV/AIDS out of an HIV population of approximately 1.7 million.
  • In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, two regions where infection rates are rising largely as a result of injecting drug use, around 62,000 died of AIDS-related causes out of 1.5 million people living with the disease.
  • Western Europe, Central Europe and North American, known to have some of the lowest HIV prevalence rates globally, reported 26,000 deaths out of total of 1.5 million current infections.The U.S. accounted for the majority of these, with just under 14,000 deaths.
  • In the U.S., HIV is today the 7th leading cause of death of people age 25-44, down from 1994 and 1995 when it was the leading cause of death. 

    The Way Forward

    According to WHO and the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),15 million people living with HIV were receiving ART globally, of which 12 million were in low- and middle-income countries.

    Newly expanded WHO guidelines issued in 2015 called for an expansion of ART programs to include all people living with HIV, irrespective of CD4 count, income or region. That's than 22 million more than currently registered for treatment.

    While challenges remain to implementation, UNAIDS officials are aiming to reach the targets of their "90-90-90" initiative by 2030, wherein 90% of people living with HIV will be tested, of which 90% of these will be provide ART; and of which 90% of these will, in turn, be able to achieve an undetectable viral load, indicative of treatment success.

    As of December 2015, an additional 2.1 million people were diagnosed with HIV in 2015, translating to over 5,700 infections each day or roughly 240 every hour. During the same period, 17 million were put onto life-saving ART, or roughly 46% of the world's HIV population.

    Concerns, however, remain as infection rates continue to rise in Russia and Central Asia, as it is in some of the world's highest prevalence African population.

    In South Africa, for example, new infection rates had increased to 470,000 in 2012 alone, up nearly 100,000 from the year below. 


    World Health Organization. "Global health sector strategy on HIV/AIDS 2011—2015." Geneva, Switzerland; published 2015.

    United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). "How AIDS changed everything - MDG6: 15 years, 15 lessons of hope from the AIDS response." Geneva, Switzerland; published 2015.

    Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. "The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the United States."
    Published April 7, 2014.

    Associated Press (AP). "Millions More Need Immediate HIV Treatment, Says New WHO Guidelines." Issued September 30, 2015.

    United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). "Fast-Track: Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030." Geneva, Switzerland; issued December 1, 2014.