The head of the International Diabetes Foundation says nearly six percent of the world's adult population is afflicted with diabetes, and the epidemic continues to grow.
At the start of the foundation's four-day conference in Cape Town, South Africa, organizers estimate some 246 million people now have diabetes and 3.8 million people die from the condition each year.
The group says the toll from diabetes is now similar in magnitude to HIV/AIDS.
Health experts say nearly one in five diabetes patients now lives in a developing country - a proportion that is projected to grow as incomes rise and more people lead sedentary lives.
Diabetes is a health condition that occurs when the body has trouble getting enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
The condition is treatable with regular insulin shots, but it can increase the risk for long-term health problems such as heart and kidney failure, blindness and the loss of limbs.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.