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Education and prevention key to preventing further spread of HIV/AIDS in Iran, Head of UNICEF Iran says

Tehran, 14 June 2007 – Drawing a link between blood safety and HIV/AIDS transmission, particularly of women and young people, Christian Salazar, the Representative of UNICEF Iran, today warned that Iran was at a crucial stage of the epidemic.
Iran has moved from a low prevalence status to a concentrated epidemic, so everything must be done to prevent HIV/AIDS from becoming a generalized epidemic. “ he said.

Speaking on this year’s World Blood Donor Day at an event organized by Iran’s Ministry of Health and the Blood Transfusion Organization, Mr Salazar warned that the HIV/AIDS infection rate had sky-rocketed in recent years.

“Injecting drug use – the main driver of the epidemic in Iran - will most likely further increase in the next years as heroine dealers in charge of selling the rampant overproduction of opium in Afghanistan will seek for new victims in Iran and other countries. These terrible trends also constitute risks for blood safety,” he said. “The prevalence rate of new cases is particularly high in the age range of 25 to 34 years old, and it is likely that the age of infection for this age range is between the years of 15 and 24. ” [1]

In Iran, an estimated 11,000 women above 15 live with HIV. [2] The official rate for transmission via contaminated blood is 1.7 per cent; the official rate of transmission from mother to child (known cases) is 0.5 per cent. [3]

“The alarm bells are ringing loud as the HIV is moving increasingly towards sexual transmission,” Mr Salazar said. “HIV/AIDS is on the way of becoming a disease that threatens the health of the general population.”

To counter this trend it is crucial to educate girls and young women on safe sex, while ensuring healthy behaviors among general public in particular those who donate blood, as well as blood safety, he said. He added that teachers, health educators, social workers and journalists had to play the lead role in education efforts on HIV/AIDS.

“In the end, the decisive factor for our success or failure to contain HIV/AIDS in Iran will be ‘Prevention’”, he said. “This will make it necessary to talk about sexuality, about relations between boys and girls and many other issues that may be a taboo to talk about under normal circumstances – but these are not normal circumstances.”

Worldwide over three million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV/AIDS. Annually, 800,000 children are newly infected. [4]  UNICEF is committed to contribute to the global goal in reducing the proportion of infants infected with HIV by 50 per cent by 2010. [5]

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

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1- Information from UNAIDS
2- The State of World’s Children Report 2007
3- Center for Disease Control – Ministry of Health and Medical Education, March 2007
4- UNICEF Working Paper: Scaling up interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV
5- UNICEF Global site

 

 
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