A United Nations report released Monday revealed a dramatic decrease in the number of HIV carriers and AIDS-related deaths over the past few years. The report attributed the decrease to the growing accessibility of medical care.

According to the annual report, produced by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS for short, the number of people infected by the HIV virus has steadily gone down, while the amount of people who received treatment for the disease has increased. Some 1.6 million people died of AIDS in 2012, compared to 1.7 million in 2011 and 2.3 million in 2005, and 2.3 million people were infected with HIV in 2012, compared to 2.5 million the previous year.

There are approximately 7,000 people living with HIV in Israel.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for HIV, which attacks the body’s immune system, but antiretroviral treatment can slow down the course of the disease and even lead to a near-normal life expectancy. Since HIV is primarily transmitted via sexual intercourse, contaminated blood transfusions and needles, as well as from mother and child during pregnancy, prevention is key.

The disease was first recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1981. Research shows that HIV probably originated in west-central Africa at the beginning of the 20th century, and from there spread to other parts of the world.

According to the UN report, 53.5 million people across the world are infected with the HIV virus.