Overview: HIV/AIDS


Sub-Saharan Africa, the area hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic worldwide, is home to nearly 25 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

9 out of 10 of all children living with HIV/AIDS in the world are found in sub-Saharan Africa. The negative impact of HIV/AIDS is evident as it affects every sphere of life. As parents and workers succumb to HIV-related diseases, the structures and division of labour in households and communities are disrupted and daily lives are affected, with women bearing much of the brunt.

There has been unprecedented political and financial commitment globally and in the Region towards the HIV response. This has led to scaling up of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care interventions in all countries. In 2013 alone, 1.5 million additional people living with HIV were put on antiretroviral therapy (ART), bringing the total number of people receiving treatment to more than 9 million. As a result of the increase in access to HIV treatment, the number of people who die from AIDS-related causes has reduced.

To consolidate these gains, the Region is intensifying HIV response efforts by mobilizing domestic resources, optimizing the synergies between HIV and other health programmes and contributing to health system strengthening.

HIV/AIDS Programme

The HIV/AIDS Programme supports Member States to develop policies and programmes and build the capacity for the delivery of the health sector response to HIV/AIDS. This includes rapidly scaling-up access to treatment and care and accelerating prevention while strengthening health systems, in the context of universal access.


Three major interventions have been successful in HIV prevention and treatment in the African Region:

  • increasing access to ART using a public health approach
  • the strategic use of ART to prevent PMTCT of HIV;
  • and reducing new HIV infections using combination prevention strategies.

Although the epidemic is slowing, more people are living with HIV. Since 2001, the population living with HIV has risen by 12% in the Region. This number is partly explained by increased survival rates due to improved access to ART. The number of people dying from AIDS-related causes is also on the decline, with 33% fewer AIDS-related deaths in Africa in 2012 than in 2005. HIV prevalence rates are much higher in women than men, with the largest differences being seen in the age group 15–24 years.