June 17, 2011
At a ceremony in Washington on Thursday, two Iranian physicians were honored with the Global Health Council's Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. The doctors, brothers Kamiar and Arash Alaei, were jailed three years ago on charges of communicating with the United States in order to support the overthrow of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While Kamiar was released three months ago and was on hand to accept the award, Arash continues serving a six-year sentence. The two are considered pioneers for their work with HIV-infected drug users. The program they developed -- which combines treatment, care, and social support -- is regarded as a best-practice model in the Middle East. Following their arrest, Physicians for Human Rights organized an 80-nation letter-writing campaign to lobby for their release. The Alaei brothers "really put themselves at risk in advocating for the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS," said Jeff Sturchio, GHC's president. "If there are still places in the world where people are put in prison just because they are advocating for the rights of people with HIV, then that is a world that we would like to see changed."