UNICEF Deputy Executive Director calls for more awareness-raising to help prevent spread of HIV/AIDS
TEHRAN, 27 June 2007 – Everything possible must be done to prevent HIV/AIDS from becoming a general epidemic in Iran, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi said during a two-day visit to Iran today.
“I am very impressed by Iran’s social programme and in particular the country’s approach to health issues,” Mr Abdi said. “Iran’s experience in these fields can serve as a useful model for other countries and could be central for increased south-south cooperation on social issues.”
Mr Abdi, who is visiting Iran for the first time, however called for more action in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention. During a visit to an HIV/AIDS prevention project in Yaftabad, Western Tehran, where UNICEF supports peer outreach education for adolescents who are at risk of contracting the disease, he said:
“Children must be at the forefront of the fight against AIDS. Around the world, millions of children are missing parents, siblings, schooling, health care, basic protection and many other fundamentals of childhood because of the toll AIDS is taking on their societies. Ignorance makes young people vulnerable to the disease. With global campaigns such as ‘United against AIDS’, UNICEF targets this ignorance, by spreading information about HIV/AIDS prevention, in particular among the most-at-risk generation of 15 to 24-years old.”
Christian Salazar, the UNICEF Representative in Iran, said that UNICEF Iran was advocating for a broad-based awareness-raising programme on HIV/AIDS prevention among young people.
“We are partnering with the media, celebrities and religious leaders in the country to inform young people of how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. But another key ally in these efforts are young people themselves – through peer-to-peer education, they can be the most effective proponents of behaviour change,” he said.
UNICEF Iran’s activities in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention also include seminars and conferences with government officials and civil society representatives as well as high-level advocacy efforts by the UNICEF Representative. In addition, they comprise peer education programmes with medical universities and, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations and the Ministry of Health, the expansion of adolescent friendly-service centres that provide information on health and life skill subjects in a youth-friendly manner.
Some 14,500 HIV/AIDS cases are currently officially registered, representing 0.16 per cent of the population. Out of this figure, the highest infection rate is among young people between the age of 25 and 34.
During his visit, Mr Abdi is due to meet key Iranian officials to discuss the situation in Iran, including the Head of the Expediency Council and former Iranian President, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, Minister of Health and Medical Education Kamran Bagheri Lankarani, and the Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, Sayed Abbas Araghchi.
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.