New data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests the percentage of people around the globe living with HIV has levelled off and that the number of new infections has fallen, in part as a result of the impact of HIV programmes.

Officials warned, however, that while the global prevalence of HIV infection, the percentage of people infected with HIV, has levelled off, the total number of people living with HIV is increasing “because of ongoing acquisition of HIV infection, combined with longer survival times, in a continuously growing general population.”

According to the data released by UNAIDS/WHO, global HIV incidence, the number of new HIV infections per year, is now estimated to have peaked in the late 1990s at over 3 million new infections per year, and is estimated in 2007 to be 2.5 million new infections, an average of more than 6,800 new infections each day.

The number of people dying from AIDS-related illnesses has declined in the last two years, due in part to the life-prolonging effects of antiretroviral therapy.

AIDS is among the leading causes of death globally and remains the primary cause of death in Africa.

“These improved data present us with a clearer picture of the AIDS epidemic, one that reveals both challenges and opportunities,” UNAIDS executive director Dr. Peter Piot said in a release.

“Unquestionably, we are beginning to see a return on investment.

“New HIV infections and mortality are declining and the prevalence of HIV leveling,” he added.

“But with more than 6,800 new infections and over 5,700 deaths each day due to AIDS we must expand our efforts in order to significantly reduce the impact of AIDS worldwide.”

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