World AIDS DAY 2021

December 1, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Today is World AIDS Day, a day to collectively act against HIV, to support people everywhere who are living with HIV, and to remember lives lost to the epidemic. The U.S. Government’s theme this year, Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice, calls for a redoubling of our efforts to ensure equal access to HIV services for all and reminds us that to truly succeed in this work, we must continue to hear, value, and amplify the voices of the people we serve.

When the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was first launched in 2003, nearly 30 million people in Africa were living with HIV, yet only 50,000 had access to lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ART). Addressing this inequity has been and continues to be foundational to our work at CDC. Through support from PEPFAR, and together with our partners and the global community, we have made incredible progress. New annual HIV infectionsexternal icon have decreased by 52 percent since their peak in 1997, and AIDS-related deathsexternal icon have decreased by 64 percent, from a peak of 1.9 million in 2004 to 680,000 in 2020. Several PEPFAR-supported African countries have achieved or are on the cusp of achieving control of their HIV epidemics, as demonstrated by data from CDC-supported population-based HIV impact assessment surveys. Between 2018 and 2020, 7.2 million people living with HIV (PLHIV) received TB preventive treatmentexternal icon, surpassing the global target of 6 million two years ahead of schedule.

In the face of remarkable progress, we have also faced unprecedented challenges, as the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to stymie progress and reverse hard-fought gains. However, CDC’s longstanding investments through PEPFAR – in laboratory science, in surveillance and health information systems, building healthcare workforce and community capacity – better prepared us to respond to COVID-19 in the countries where we work and enabled us to avoid the worst-case scenarios projected in early 2020. Despite setbacks early in the pandemic when many countries were in lockdown, CDC and its implementing partners rapidly adapted services such as multi-month dispensing of ART, HIV self-testing, and service models, designed for individual community needs to sustain and expand key HIV treatment and prevention activities. As a result, in the 20 months since the onset of COVID-19, we have grown our CDC treatment cohort by 1.8 million, tested more than 58 million individuals for HIV, and initiated 2.2 million newly diagnosed PLHIV on treatment.

Looking to the future, we need to continue our work to drive down global HIV incidence and mortality and accelerate our work to address disparities among key populations, adolescent girls and young women, and children. This will require a renewed commitment to eliminating stigma, discrimination, and other barriers preventing access to HIV services, as well as strengthened partnerships with the communities most affected by HIV. As we take stock of what has been learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should apply these lessons to not only secure future gains and sustain progress towards HIV epidemic control, but also to build systems that are resilient to future health threats. Together, we can complete this mission. As always, thank you for your efforts to protect the public’s health.


/Nathaniel Smith/
Nathaniel Smith, MD, MPH
Acting-Director, Center for Global Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC – Global Health

/Hank Tomlinson/
Hank Tomlinson, PhD
Director, Division of Global HIV and TB
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Global HIV and TB (

Page last reviewed: December 1, 2021
Content source: Global Health