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Around 1.8 million people became newly infected with HIV and around 50 countries experienced a rise in new HIV infections during a year ago, according to Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, who was speaking at the ongoing International AIDS Conference in the Netherlands.

The report warns that HIV prevalence can be high as up to 70 per cent among sex workers in some southern African countries; however, about three quarters of countries reporting to UNAIDS criminalise some aspect of sex work and sex workers report that condoms are often confiscated by the police. Their goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 per cent by 2020.

In South Africa, the number of new HIV infections is dropping‚ but there were still 231‚000 new infections in 2017.

Some 68 countries have laws that criminalise HIV non-disclosure, exposure or transmission, while 33 others have applied similar laws in specific cases.

Aleya Khalifa of the UNICEF who presented the data, noted that reducing the HIV burden among young people in sub-Saharan Africa will require better access to HIV prevention, sexual and reproductive health, and targeted testing services. "Laws that specifically criminalize HIV non-disclosure, exposure, or transmission thus primarily exacerbate HIV-related stigma and decrease HIV service uptake".

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According to UNAIDS, countries and cities that have adequately invested are seeing results.

The musician, who has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS research through his foundation, said the high level of stigma and discrimination faced by the LGBTIQ+ people in Russian Federation was a direct contributor to the rapid growth of new cases of HIV. In Namibia, 77 percent of all HIV-positive adults have achieved HIV viral load suppression, a widely used measure of effective HIV treatment in a population.

He explained that much work had been done to protect women and girls but "we can't solve the whole problem if we are only addressing half the situation", Elton John added.

A recent report of the International AIDS Society (IAS) highlighted the epidemic's "extraordinary impact" on adolescent girls and young women. This requires countries to reform discriminatory laws that perpetuate inequality and develop and enforce laws that promote gender equality. In many instances, they have been influenced by deep-rooted stigma and fear associated with HIV, which still exists despite the huge advances in HIV treatment and prevention. People are are not being diagnosed and treated soon enough, allowing transmissions to occur before they start treatment or if treatment is interrupted.

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