Since the first cases of AIDS were identified in 1981, over 25 million people have died as a result of HIV infection.1 This makes AIDS one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. The epidemic remains extremely dynamic, and no country in the world is unaffected. It is estimated that HIV currently infects approximately 35 million people worldwide. Approximately 68% of these cases are in subsaharan Africa, with a prevalence of approximately 5%. East Asia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe are also seeing rapidly rising infection rates.

In 2007 alone, approximately 2.1 million people died from AIDS and 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV. Most ofthese infections were acquired through heterosexual transmission. As of December 2007, women accounted for 47% of all people living with HIV worldwide; in subsaharan Africa, women account for 61%. Persons aged 15 to 24 years accounted for nearly one-half of new HIV infections worldwide.

In the United States, at the end of 2006, an estimated 1,039,000 to 1,185,000 persons were living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 30% of these are undiagnosed and unaware of their HIV infection, and could be unknowingly transmitting the virus to others. In 2006, of the total number of HIV-infected patients, approximately 509,681 were living with AIDS, while 14,627 died with AIDS. The cumulative estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS through 2006 was 1,014,797, one-half of whom (565,927) had died. Approximately 56,300 people were newly infected with HIV in 2006.

Compared with their distribution in the U.S. population, African American and Hispanic populations are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, representing 48% and 19% of cases, respectively. HIV/AIDS is among the top four causes of death for African American men aged 25 to 44 years and is among the top three causes of death for African American women of the same age. In 2006, HIV/AIDS rates for African American males were seven times those for white males and two times those for Hispanic males. HIV/AIDS rates for African American females were 19 times the rates for white females and four times the rates for Hispanic females.

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