2020 HIV rates show world ‘sleepwalking towards AIDS emergency’

Frontline AIDS / Keoma Zec 2020
Evelyn Naila Acentales Maciasa, a sex worker and a dancer, poses during a portrait session in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

New figures from the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS have revealed there were 1.5 million new HIV infections worldwide in 2020, while deaths from AIDS-related illnesses showed no fall on the previous year.

The figures have been released as part of a UNAIDS report – Global Commitments, Local Action – launched ahead of the 40th anniversary of the first reported cases of AIDS (5th June). The report highlights that while dozens of countries have made good progress in meeting HIV prevention targets, other countries and entire regions are now badly off track.

Responding to the figures, Christine Stegling, Executive Director at Frontline AIDS said:

“Four decades on from the start of the AIDS crisis, the global HIV response is teetering, caught in a perfect storm of waning political and public engagement, diminishing funds and the global shock of COVID-19. In many countries, the AIDS crisis never ended – the world just stopped talking about it.

“Last year, every single global target on HIV was missed; not by a little, but missed outrageously. 1.5 million people were diagnosed with HIV, triple where the target was supposed to be. More concerning still are reports that HIV testing fell by more than 40% in clinics across Africa and Asia last year, which means behind these figures may be a gathering iceberg of undiagnosed infection, placing many more at risk. The world is sleepwalking towards a new AIDS emergency, and we need urgent, immediate action to get HIV prevention on track.

“As G7 leaders meet to discuss how to prepare for future pandemics, they cannot avoid the pandemics that are already here and creating avoidable pressure on countries and communities worldwide. We cannot end one pandemic by ignoring another.”

From 8th – 10th June, the United Nations is convening a high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS in New York. Frontline AIDS is calling for a Political Declaration that takes forward the ambitious new Global AIDS Strategy targets and strengthens global commitments to address the inequalities, social and structural factors — such as violence against women, laws criminalizing those most at risk of HIV, and stigma and discrimination — which are holding back the movement to end AIDS by 2030.


HIV preventionUNAIDS