African countries are not on track to achieve a global target of ending HIV-related deaths by 2030, a new report says.

The UN report to mark World Aids Day on Thursday highlights the differences in the way that men and women are treated as well as punitive laws as the main barriers to reaching the goal.

The UN aims to ensure that:

  • 90% of people living with HIV know their status
  • 90% of those diagnosed are on treatment
  • and 90% of those taking HIV drugs have achieved viral suppression – a state where the virus becomes undetectable thus preventing transmission

In sub-Saharan Africa, young women and girls aged from 15 to 24 years old are three times more likely to get HIV than men.

Nearly 5,000 new HIV infections are reported every week among this section of the population.

“African countries need to combine sexual reproductive health services, gender-based violence and HIV services in a such a way that they are tailored to meet the needs of the women and girls in different settings.” UNAids Executive Director Winnie Byanyima told journalists in Tanzania.

Ms Byanyima also called on governments to drop sections of their laws that have been cited by as stumbling blocks in preventing new infections.

“Punitive laws have been shown to block HIV service access and increase HIV risk. Harmful laws include the criminalisation of same-sex relations, transgender people, HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission, drug possession and use, and sex work,” she added.

Countries that criminalise those at a high risk of getting HIV saw less progress towards the testing and treatment targets over the last five years – with significantly lower percentages of people living with HIV knowing their status and achieving viral suppression than in countries that avoided criminalisation.

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