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Commentary & Opinion
Praise for Iran's Harm Reduction Program

November 30, 2010

In a post on the New York Times' "Opinionator" blog, author Tina Rosenberg highlights how needle exchange programs can reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and specifically applauds Iran's harm reduction program. In 2005, "harm reduction had become official policy in Iran. ... Even prisons in Iran now have widespread methadone, and there have been pilot projects in prisons for needle exchange -- something not yet found in prisons in the United States, Canada or Australia. In 2007, 95 percent of drug injectors surveyed in Iran said they had used safe equipment when they last injected," Rosenberg writes. "The rate of new HIV infections in Iran rose until 2005, and has dropped ever since," she notes, adding that Iranian drug control official Saeed Sefatian "said in 2008 that 18 percent of injecting drug users were HIV-positive, but estimated that if it weren't for harm reduction, that number would have been 40 percent."

"By pointing out the success of this program, I do not mean to endorse Iran's prisons, where political dissidents are being tortured. Nor does Iran's modern approach to harm reduction redeem the government's stone-age approach to just about everything else. ... The important point here is that even a theocracy as repressive and rigid as Iran -- the anti-Amsterdam -- managed to create policies that have likely saved the country from an AIDS and drug disaster," Rosenberg argues (11/29).

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