(CNN)As people around the world commemorate World AIDS Day, in many countries, the disease is still cutting lives short at an alarming rate.
On World AIDS Day, these three big challenges stand in the way of HIV/AIDS research
Of the 770,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2018, almost two-thirds occurred in Africa and the Middle East where infected people have little access to treatment.
In their constant work to reduce the number of HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths, researchers face significant challenges, Dr. Carlos del Rio, told CNN's Michael Holmes on Wednesday. He is the director for clinical sciences and international research for the Center for AIDS Research at Emory University and the executive associate dean for Emory School of Medicine at Grady Health System.
Del Rio said researchers are challenged with inadequate health care systems, in addition to a lack of a preventative vaccine or a cure for the disease.
"We need to strengthen healthcare systems, so people with HIV continue receiving medication in an appropriate way," del Rio said.
Of the nearly 38 million people living with HIV worldwide -- including 1.7 million children younger than 15 years old -- just 24.5 million have access to treatment therapies, according to UNAIDS.
People with HIV may take a combination of drugs called antiretroviral therapy, or ART. ART reduces the amount of the virus in a person's body, allowing them to live healthy lives and reducing their chances of transmitting HIV to others, says the US Department of Health and Human Services.