Despite major advances, HIV/AIDS remains one of the most significant public health challenges in the world, particularly in low and middle-income countries. An estimated 36.9 million people globally have the virus.
Twenty-six new infections occur every hour around the world, making the disease the second leading cause of death among adolescents. According to the UN, with new cases being diagnosed every day, young women in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk.
In a UN report released in July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world can end the AIDS epidemic within 15 years. Although the virus has claimed an estimated 35 million lives since being first identified in 1984, new HIV infections have fallen 35 percent since 2001 to two million a year in 2014, and AIDS-related deaths have dropped more than 40 percent since 2004 to 1.2 million a year.
World AIDS Day, marked annually on December 1, aims to commemorate the people who have lost their lives to the disease and bring attention to the cause of the fight against HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus.