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The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to grow more than 25 years after the epidemic was identified, despite worldwide efforts to prevent and contain it. According to a recent update on the epidemic jointly issued by UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS) and WHO (World Health Organization), an estimated 39.5 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. The year 2006 saw 4.3 million new infections and 2.9 million deaths from AIDS-related illness. Of the new infections, 2.8 million or 65 percent occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. WHO says the region represents 70 percent of the world’s unmet need for treatment.

The number of women infected with HIV has been increasing. Of the people infected with HIV, 48 percent are women, with the rate jumping to 59 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. Life expectancy in the region at birth is just 47 years, about 30 years shorter than in developed countries.

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