The Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations’ HIV/AIDS agency says the epidemic could potentially be over by 2030.

Dr Luis Loures, who joined UNAIDS in 1996, said progress made in the treatment and control of HIV could mean transmission rates dramatically fall by that time, Agency France Presse reports.

“I think that 2030 is a viable target to say that we have reached the end of the epidemic,” Dr Loures said.

“HIV will continue existing as a case here or there but not at the epidemic level we have today.”

HIV-related illnesses cause an estimated 1.7 million people globally to die each year, with around 3 million new HIV infections reported annually.

“We can get to the end of the epidemic because we have treatments and ways to control the infection,” Dr Loures continued. “We are making progress, without a doubt.”

He continued to say that the challenge lay in tackling transmission rates in the most vulnerable groups, such gay men, sex workers and drug users, who often don’t not seek treatment for fear of being stigmatised or criminally prosecuted.

“If we do not succeed in controlling the epidemic among these groups, AIDS will stay with us,” Dr Loures said.

However, he added “Today, there are a number of cases where we have evidence of a cure and that gives us great hope.”

By the end of 2011, an estimated 96,000 people were living with HIV in the UK, including about 73,400 people diagnosed with HIV and 22,600 who were infected but undiagnosed.

Of these, an estimated 40,100 were those classed as men who have sex with men (MSM).

In July, the Department of Health warned that there was “anecdotal” evidence from drug and alcohol clinics in London that recreational drug use could be linked to rising HIV infection rates among gay and bisexual men in the city.

Last month, an initiative to give free HIV home-testing kits to clubbers in Vauxhall was launched by Mortimer Market Centre, a Camden-based sexual health clinic.