Social Stigma, Taboos in Iran Undermining Government Efforts To Fight HIV/AIDS, Official Says
Social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in Iran is undermining efforts to raise public awareness about the disease in the country, Deputy Health Minister Moayed Alavian said on Saturday at a conference at Tehran University to mark World AIDS Day, Reuters reports. More than 16,000 HIV/AIDS cases officially have been recorded in Iran, Alavian said, but he added that some estimates put the number at 70,000. According to Alavian, 66.7% of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country are injection drug users. He said that the Ministry of Health and Medical Education faces challenges in addressing HIV/AIDS because of the social stigma attached to the disease and the fact that the subject is taboo, Reuters reports. "There are also social and cultural limitations in providing education on how to prevent (the disease) and informing the public," Alavian said.
Health Minister Kamran Lankarani in a pamphlet distributed at the conference was quoted as saying that he is concerned by the increasing sexual transmission of HIV in Iran. In a speech to the conference, Lankarani said, "One of our country's greatest points in this regards is that all services related to HIV/AIDS are totally free of charge, and that includes drugs, tests and all kinds of treatments." Because of "free and sufficient treatments and good programs," Lankarani said that Iran is experiencing a decline in the number of women and children under age 15 living with AIDS (Hosseinian, Reuters, 12/1).
Christian Salazar, UNICEF coordinator for HIV in Iran, in June said that the number of HIV cases in Iran is increasing rapidly because of the increased flow of heroin into the country from Afghanistan and that an increasing number of HIV cases are being transmitted sexually (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/15).