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What percentage of people ages 15-49 are infected with HIV?

on Mon, 01/20/2014 - 06:20

This blog post was motivated by a recent tweet by The World Bank Data @worldbankdata regarding the percentage of people ages 15-49 years infected with HIV

The World Bank Data page shows the data in a table with options to display a world map with the distribution of the prevalence of HIV for year 2012 and a trend chart just displaying the prevalence of HIV of the world without options to see the trend by countries. We are able to answer the question stated in the tweet, but the table, map and chart provided are very limited if we want to answers further especific questions. The good news is that the open data platform from The World Bank Data allows us to download the data in CSV, XML and Excel formats, therefore, I decided to download the data, play with them and create an interactive data visualization that allows to answer questions such as: how is the prevalence of HIV distributed geographically? what are the countries with the higher prevalence of HIV? what is the trend over time of the prevalence of HIV in specific countries?  exist differences of the percentage of people living with HIV among regions and income?


Human immunodeficiency virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a disease of the human immune system caused by infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). 

Globally, it is estimated that 34.0 million [31.4–35.9 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2012. An estimated 0.8% of adults aged 15-49 years worldwide are living with HIV, although the burden of the epidemic continues to vary considerably between countries and regions.

This article has the objective to show the magnitude, geographic distribution and trends of the prevalence of HIV in countries across the world and provide and an exploratory tool to identify critical countries that require priority public health actions and interventions in order to prevent and control the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. 


Data visualization below shows the indicator "Prevalence of HIV, Total (% of pupulation ages 15-49 years)" at country level. This indicator is estimated by UNAIDS, the United Nation especialized agency on HIV/AIDS, and it is included in the World Development Indicator database, The World Bank, available in the Open Data Portal. Data points for 105 countries from 1990 to 2012 are available in this data set. Countries with small population are grouped in order to get a reliable estimates. Those country groups were excluded from the visualization due to lack of geographic reference.

Key findings

Sub-Saharan Africa remains most severely affected since 1990 to nowadays, with nearly 1 in every 20 adults (4.9%) living with HIV and accounting for 69% of the people living with HIV worldwide in 2012.

Sub-Saharan Africa is also the most heterogenious region regarding the percentage of adults infected with HIV as illustrated by the boxplot chart with the distribution of this metric by region. 

Swaziland is the country with highest prevalence of HIV in 2012, with nearly 3 person infected with HIV in every 10 adults (26.5%), About five times greater than the prevalence of Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the worst situation, and nearly 30 times higher than the prevalence of the world.

The top five countries with the higher prevalence of HIV worldwide are Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. These countries are all located in Sub-Saharan Africa and they are outliers in that region with prevalence greater than the upper whisker (13.3%).


Data visualizations play a key role to analyze and monitor HIV and HIV-related heath isuues, and communicate findings to national authorities, health managers, policy makers and the general public.

The data set includes data from 105 out of 201 countries of the world. As we are able to see in the map, many countries (on color grey) has missing data, including Canada, United States and Brazil from the region of the Americas, most of the countries from Europe and many other from Easter Asia-Pacific, including Australia. I don't know the reasons of this absence, but it is essential to have estimates for those countries to understand better the health problem. 

Public health interventions and international resources should be focalized on those most critical countries from Sub-Saharan Africa in order to reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS in the world. As part of those interventions, efforts to make currently effective and available treatments to people living with HIV should be done in order to extend and improve the quality of their lifes.  


Klugman J and Wilson D. Empowering Women, Girls is Vital To Tackling AIDS, Poverty. Investing in Health: News and Views in Health Development. The World Bank

Wilson D. World AIDS Day: Bank, Global Fund Focus on Saving Lives, Stronger Health Systems. Investing in Health: News and Views in Health Development. The World Bank


P.S. The visualization of this article was selected by Tableau Public as Visualization of the Day on January 24th, 2014.

Tableau Public Visualization of the Day, January 24th, 2014

This viz was picked by Tableau Public team as one of the Tableau Top 25 Vizzes of 2014, becoming a candidate for Top 5 Vizzes of 2014.

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