Commercial Sex Trade for Discounted Fashion Clothing in Iran Hampering Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDS
The "increasingly common" practice in Tehran, Iran, between commercial sex workers and shopkeepers of trading sex for no-cost or discounted fashion clothing is undermining efforts to fight the spread of HIV in the country, according to health education workers, London's Guardian reports. One business owner in north Tehran's "affluent" Tajrish district said that about 50% of shopkeepers in the mall had accepted sex in exchange for clothes, the Guardian reports. Another worker in the same mall, who admitted to accepting sex for clothes, said that the sex workers provide their phone numbers and services in exchange for an increased discount on clothing. According to the Guardian, Iranian authorities have "attempted a clampdown" on the sex-for-clothing trade by placing policemen and security guards inside shopping malls. In addition, the HIV/AIDS advocacy group Iran Positive Life tours shops in an effort to educate business owners, whom the group hopes will pass safer-sex information to sex workers. However, business owners often do not implement the practices and fail to pass the information to the sex workers, according to the Guardian. Although the official number of HIV cases in Iran is 13,704, the World Health Organization and Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education estimate the actual figure is between 70,000 and 120,000 cases. HIV/AIDS advocates and health officials believe that Iran's "strict sexual mores are loosening among its predominantly young population" and that premarital sex and sex outside of marriage are becoming increasingly common, the Guardian reports. Some experts believe many young people in the country do not get tested because they lack HIV/AIDS education or fear reprisal from their families. Although an official campaign has been launched to raise HIV/AIDS awareness among Iranians, experts say combating the disease has been slowed by a lack of reliable data and research, the Guardian reports (Tait, Guardian, 1/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.