new report from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has today reviewed the progress made against HIV infections since the start of this century and found a lot of encouraging data. Annual infections among children, perhaps the most tragic demographic to be affected by the spread of the AIDS virus, have fallen to 260,000 in 2012, 52 percent lower than 2001's 550,000. When adults are included as well, the reduction is smaller in relative terms, but greater in absolute numbers: there were 3.4 million new HIV infections in 2001 compared to 2.3 million in 2012.

These headline stats are backed up by other positive data, such as the number of AIDS-related deaths globally, which rose to a peak of 2.3 million between 2005 and 2006, but had declined to 1.6 million by 2012. During that same six-year span, the UNAIDS report estimates the number of people accessing treatment to have grown from 1.3 million to 9.7 million, while overall funding has been increased from $7.4 billion to $18.9 billion.

Treatment availability has grown rapidly, however the United Nations' research also shows that there's much work still to do. The vast majority of new HIV infections are to be found in sub-Saharan Africa, which is already the region with the most people living with AIDS. Moreover, 95 percent of all new infections are in low- and middle-income countries. The UNAIDS report concludes by underlining the need to tackle the sociopolitical and economic issues that prevent its member states from achieving their ambitious goal of eradicating new HIV infections entirely.