Current Status + Progress
The AIDS epidemic continues to take a staggering toll, especially in sub-Saharan Africa

An estimated 36.7 million people were living with HIV worldwide in 2016. Of these, 2.1 million were children under 15 years of age and about 18.8 million were women and girls. Each day, approximately 5,000 people were newly infected with HIV and approximately 2,800 people died from AIDS, mostly because of inadequate access to HIV prevention care and treatment services. However, new HIV infections among children are declining rapidly – approximately 66% since 2000 –due to scaled-up efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

The toll of HIV and AIDS continues to be harsh, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2016, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for the vast majority of the world’s people living with AIDS, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. In that region, HIV is spread primarily through heterosexual sex. In 2016, nearly three times as many adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa were newly infected with HIV than boys in the same age group (15 to 19 years).


As of 2016, roughly 16.5 million children under the age of 18 had lost one or both parents to AIDS. Millions more have been affected by the epidemic, through a heightened risk of poverty, homelessness, school dropout, discrimination and loss of opportunities. These hardships include prolonged illness and death. Of the estimated 1.0 million people who died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2016, 120,000 of them were children under 15 years of age.

The global AIDS epidemic continues to affect millions of people, regardless of their age or sex

In 2016, around 160,000 children were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of children under age 15 living with HIV to 2.1 million. Nearly 90 per cent of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. One bright spot on the global horizon is the rapid decline of approximately 66% in new HIV infections among children (aged 0-14) since 2000 due to stepped-up efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The good news: New HIV infections in children are declining rapidly

Percentage of pregnant women living with HIV receiving most effective antiretroviral medicines for PMTCT, by UNICEF Region, 2000-2016

Note: Data for North America and Western Europe are not included

Source: UNAIDS 2017 estimates, July 2017


Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Southern Africa, remains the region most heavily affected by the epidemic. In 2016, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for approximately 66 per cent of people living with HIV worldwide, 64 per cent of new HIV infections, and around 70 per cent of all AIDS-related deaths. The spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is mostly through heterosexual relationships, both in the context of transactional and commercial sex and in longer-term relationships, including marriage.

In most other regions of the world, HIV disproportionately affects persons who inject drugs, men who have sex with men and sex workers. The epidemic is evolving, however, transmission patterns are changing throughout the world. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, HIV epidemics that were once distinguished largely by transmission among persons who inject drugs are now increasingly characterized by significant sexual transmission. In parts of Asia, HIV is transmitted more and more among heterosexual couples. In Asia as a whole, HIV epidemics have long been concentrated in persons who inject drugs, sex workers and their clients and men who have sex with men. Now, infections are steadily spreading into lower-risk populations through transmission to the sexual partners of those most at risk.

Adolescents aged 15 to 19 account for an estimated 15 per cent of new adult HIV infections worldwide. Globally, in 2016, adolescent girls accounted for two thirds of all new HIV infections among adolescents. In sub-Saharan Africa that year, nearly three times as many adolescent girls were newly infected with HIV than adolescent boys. In North America, East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Europe more boys are newly infected with HIV each year than girls in adolescence. This reflects differences in risk behaviour in these regions, which means that interventions must be tailored to the specific nature and dynamic of the epidemic.

Globally, 2 in 3 new HIV infections among adolescents occur in girls, but it varies by region

Per cent of the estimated number of new HIV infections among adolescents (aged 15-19) that are among girls, by UNICEF region, 2016

Note: Data from North America are not displayed

Source: UNAIDS 2017 estimates, July 2017


For information on UNICEF’s programme and policy work on HIV and AIDS, click here.

Recent Resources

For Every Child, End AIDS: Seventh Stocktaking Report, 2016

Nov 30, 2016

Children are still dying of AIDS-related causes.  Children living with HIV (aged 0–4) face the highest risk of AIDS-related death compared to all other age groups. The AIDS-response must focus on solutions for this extremely vulnerable population. Preventing new infections, but also testing and starting treatment early are the best ways to end AIDS among the youngest children. In an age when the tools and knowledge are at hand to prevent and treat HIV in children, new infections and deaths among this age group reflect a collective failure to prioritise children.

Download executive summary | Download report

Children & AIDS: 2015 Statistical Update

Nov 27, 2015

At the turn of the century, and the beginning of the Millennium Development Goals, an HIV diagnosis was equivalent to a death sentence for most children and their families in low-income countries. But now, an early diagnosis paired with treatment and care can ensure long healthy lives, regardless of location, and can help prevent transmission of HIV to others. Since 2000, 30 million new infections were prevented, nearly 8 million deaths averted, and 15 million people living with HIV are now receiving treatment.

Download executive summary

Redefining childhood vulnerability to HIV (policy brief)

Feb 1, 2015

Childhood vulnerability cuts across all development programming and planning, including the sectors of HIV and AIDS, education, health, child protection and social protection.  Understanding indicators of childhood vulnerability in general and to HIV in particular, could help practitioners identify vulnerable children more accurately and spend money accordingly.

Download brochure (PDF)

Towards an AIDS-free generation – Children and AIDS Stocktaking Report, 2013

Jan 1, 2013

An AIDS-free generation means a generation in which all children are born free of HIV and remain so for the first two decades of life, from birth through adolescence.

Download full report (PDF)
Data Sources + Methodology


In an effort to harmonize data collection and minimize the reporting burden on countries, UNAIDS, WHO and UNICEF have developed a joint reporting tool. The tool, which has been translated into several UN languages, combines the Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting and Universal Access reporting on the health sector response to HIV/AIDS. Countries that have not yet begun using the tool are advised to download the latest version. Accompanying guidelines support countries in using the tool and provide detailed descriptions of the indicators used.

  • For more information, click here
  • For Global AIDS Monitoring reporting guidelines, click here
  • To view the latest version of the reporting tool, click here
  • To view a list of indicators, click here


UNAIDS, WHO and UNICEF are using Avenir Health’s modelling software, Spectrum/EPP, to generate estimates, which support policy decisions concerning public health. Spectrum includes modules for HIV estimates and projectors.

  • For more information, click here
  • For estimates methodology, click here


Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS)Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), AIDS Indicator Surveys (AIS), reproductive health surveys, sexual behaviour surveys and other nationally representative surveys are currently used to collect data on HIV and AIDS.