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International News

Tackling AIDS in Iran

March 22, 2002

Despite its strong attachment to religious values, Iran has thrown its weight behind an extremely enlightened campaign to combat AIDS, a disease normally associated with such un-Islamic practices as intravenous drug use and extra-marital sex. Officials say that Iran has over 3,400 recorded HIV cases, and nearly 400 AIDS cases, of whom 35 have died. "The numbers are low, but the burden is heavy," said Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Goya, of the Iran University Medical Science, who is directing the national campaign.

In the airport of the provincial capital Zahedan, a huge poster declaring "AIDS -- the Plague of the Century" confronts arriving passengers. The local health department created and sponsored dramatic TV advertisements showing junkies sharing needles in a park, and advising the use of condoms. And they try to prevent people with AIDS from being demonized, saying that they "have done nothing wrong. They should not be driven out of society, the workplace, or the family."

National figures show that more than 60 percent of HIV cases are attributed to needle sharing and only about 25 percent to sexual contact. Special attention is given to screening high-risk groups such as prisoners, large majorities of whom are in jail for drug-related offenses, and many of whom inject heroin. Once persons with HIV are identified, they and their families are registered and given family counseling at a discrete clinic.

In a room full of chador-wearing young women, Dr. Mohammad- Reza Miradi unfurls a condom. "Don't be shy about it, this is very important," he said. Engaged couples are obliged to attend the clinic, where they are given a blood test and attend AIDS awareness classes. They later fill in a questionnaire to test their knowledge of how the virus is transmitted and how to avoid it. Religious elders have also been enlisted to help, and even this most conservative -- and influential -- sector of society has responded positively, spreading the word among those attending prayers in the city's mosques.

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Previous Updates

Adapted from:
BBC News
03.20.02; Jim Muir


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
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