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KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- A northern Tajik province is reporting a large increase in the number of new cases of HIV this year, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Sayid Bobojonov, chief doctor at an epidemic center in Sughd province, has said that 19 women and a child are among the 53 new cases of people registered as having HIV/AIDS in the first seven months of this year.

Bobojonov said this is a large increase to the 350 previous cases of people registered as having HIV/AIDS in the region.

An AIDS/HIV center was established in Khujand with the help of international organizations to treat patients.

Former convict Vasily Gizbrekht, who has been diagnosed as HIV-positive, told RFE/RL that he contracted the virus while using his cellmate's razor in a Khujand prison nine years ago.

He says his relatives abandoned him after they learned about his disease. After years of living on the streets he says he now works at the Khujand center.
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