Roughly 9.4 million people may be positive for HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, and not know it, according to a new report from UNAIDS, the United Nations joint program on HIV/AIDS.
As of 2017, roughly 37 million people worldwide have HIV, according to the new report, which means one quarter of those people don’t know they are infected. These numbers seem extreme, but at least compared with domestic estimates, they are not totally surprising. Based on data from 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that about 15% of the 1.2 million Americans infected with HIV didn’t know they carried the virus.
Large gaps in testing and treatment are still especially prominent in western and central African nations, often due to a combination of factors including weak health systems and humanitarian crises. In general, fears and stigmas about AIDS, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, remain and are major reasons why individuals decide not to get tested, and that remains true worldwide.
The theme of World AIDS Day 2018, which was December 1 was “Know your status.” It’s an extremely apt message given this latest report, as knowing one’s HIV status can prevent the spread of infection, as well as enable individuals with access to medicine and doctors to get the care they need to continue to live a long, healthy life.