AIDS will surpass the Black Death as the world's worst pandemic if the 40 million people living with HIV or AIDS do not get life prolonging drugs. The illness has killed 25 million people since the early 1980s. An estimated 14,000 people are infected each day with HIV, which destroys the immune system.
Without antiretroviral drugs, most people living with AIDS will die, pushing the death toll beyond the 40 million killed by the Black Death that ravaged Asia and Europe in the 14th century. The Black Death, or bubonic plague, was caused by a bacterium carried by rats. Infection spreads through rat flea bites.
"Despite the impressive advances in medicine since then, HIV/AIDS is likely to surpass the Black Death as the worst pandemic ever. If we don't improve access to treatment in the next 10-15 years we could have as many as 65 million deaths from this disease," said Peter Lamptey, president of the Family Health International AIDS Institute a non-governmental agency based in Arlington, Virginia.
The illness has decreased life expectancy, increased infant mortality and orphaned millions of children, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than 28 million HIV sufferers. Ninety five percent of new infections are in the world's poorest countries where life prolonging drugs are not available to most sufferers.