After years of Africa leading the world in the number of HIV/AIDS-related deaths, a new report recently released at an international AIDS conference in Switzerland noted that the number of Africans succumbing to the disease has decreased by about half since 2005.

The report, “Getting to Zero: The HIV Epidemic in Eastern and Southern Africa,” was released by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). The report highlights the fact that the number of AIDS-related deaths in the African nations of Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe has steadily decreased since 2005. Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, African nations were decimated by the disease. The new report attributes the decrease in AIDS cases to, at least in part, access to antiretroviral therapies—something that had been in limited supply to certain regions in Africa.

“Fewer people are dying from AIDS and becoming infected with HIV in countries in eastern and southern Africa,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS.

He added that between 2005 and 2012, the number of Africans receiving antiretroviral drug therapy increased from about 625,000 to more than 6.3 million, with the countries of Botswana, Rwanda and Zambia experiencing the largest gains. Also, the rate of infections decreased from 1.7 million in 2001 to 1.2 million in 2011, another indication that proper precautions and safe sex practices are being utilized.

The study also showed that young African women continue to be most affected by the disease, with the prevalence of HIV in young women in eastern and southern Africa between the ages of 15 and 24 nearly double that of young men between the same ages.

“At the core of high infections of women is not just the biology of women, but negative social norms and excessive violation of their basic human rights,” said Michaela Clayton, director of AIDS and Right Alliance in South Africa. In a release announcing the study, Clayton and others suggest that stigmatization, discrimination and lack of access to educational resources play a role in the high number of HIV infections among young African women.

To view excerpts for the UNAIDS study, visit www.unaids.com.