Human Rights Watch Urges Iran To Release or Charge Two HIV/AIDS AdvocatesHuman Rights Watch on Monday said that Iranian authorities have not disclosed why two physicians known for their work on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment were detained last month or where they are being held, BBC News reports. The physicians, brothers Arash Alaei and Kamyar Alaei, are credited with encouraging Iranian authorities to tackle the stigma of HIV/AIDS "in a country where sex, drug abuse and the disease itself are taboo subjects," BBC News reports. HRW called on Iran to immediately release or charge the physicians, whom the group says have not had legal representation.
Joe Amon, HRW's HIV/AIDS program director, said that Iran's work to combat the disease is internationally acclaimed, largely because of the work of the brothers, who established educational campaigns among injection drug users and commercial sex workers. They also introduced harm-reduction programs in prisons, working closely with Iran's government and religious leaders (BBC News, 7/22). Amon added, "The detention without charges of the Alaei brothers has a chilling effect on all of those efforts" (HRW release, 7/21). The brothers, who have traveled widely outside of Iran to take part in HIV/AIDS conferences, planned to attend the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City next month. Arash Alaei was scheduled to present in Mexico about Iran's innovative HIV programs, according to HRW (BBC News, 7/22).
According to the Albany Times Union, Kamyar Alaei is enrolled in the University at Albany's doctorate of public health program. Philip Nasca, the university's dean, said, "We are obviously very concerned. We're kind of in the dark like everybody else is." Kamyar Alaei had returned home to Iran for the summer and was expected back in Albany for the fall semester, the Times Union reports.
Neither brother is known to be involved in politics, the Times reports. They have spoken about the health situation in Iran during professional visits to the U.S. (Parry, Albany Times Union, 7/22). According to BBC News, Iran in recent years has arrested a number of academics with ties to the U.S. (BBC News, 7/22). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.