More than 30 years into the pandemic, UNAIDS estimates that 34.2 million people worldwide are living with HIV. This number includes an estimated 3.4 million children under the age of 15 years.

The number of people living with HIV increases each year because fewer people are dying, thanks to the increasing availability of lifesaving antiretroviral medication.

The number of people receiving medication rose by 20 percent between 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, the cost of a year’s supply of the medication decreased from more than $10,000 per person in 2000 to less than $100 in 2011.

Despite this progress, HIV still presents a serious global health crisis. In 2011, more than 7,000 people were infested every day.

Catholic Relief Services (a caritas member in the US)  has been on the forefront of the epidemic since launching our first HIV project in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1986. Today, CRS and its partners directly support more than 4.8 million people affected by the epidemic.

Meanwhile, at the end of the general audience on Wednesday, 28 November , Pope Benedict XVI made the following appeal: “On 1 December World AIDS Day, a United Nations initiative intended to draw attention to a disease that has caused millions of deaths and tragic human suffering, particularly in the poorest regions of the world, where there is very limited access to effective medicines. My thoughts turn in particular to the large number of children who contract the virus from their mothers each year, despite the treatments which exist to prevent its transmission. I encourage the many initiatives that, within the scope of the ecclesial mission, have been taken in order to eradicate this scourge.”