Health Ministry in Fast-Track Mode

Health Ministry in Fast-Track Mode
Health Ministry in Fast-Track Mode

The head of the HIV/AIDS and STD Control Department at the Health Ministry announced plans to fast-track prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in the country.

“The Health Ministry is implementing the program within the framework of its fourth strategic plan on HIV prevention and control (2015-2019),” Parvin Afsar Kazerouni told ISNA.

The plan has five major goals: reducing HIV prevalence rate to less than 0.15% among the general public; less that 13% among substance-abusers, and less than 5% among people at risk through sexual transmission.  It will also try to bring down mother-to-child transmission by 90% and deaths from AIDS-related diseases by 20% within the timeframe.

According to Kazerooni, the program also includes devising educational courses and packages for adolescent and vulnerable women.

“Due to a rise in sexual transmission of the deadly disease, educational programs on preventive strategies have been put on the ministry’s agenda,” she said.

Between 1988 and October 2015, a total of 30,183 cases of the disease were reported, out of which 67% were through injections and 18% sexually transmitted. Women made up 15% of the total figure, while men comprised the remaining.

The plan was finalized and approved in February in the presence of President Hassan Rouhani, and one of its major aspects entails establishment of executive as well as monitoring and evaluating committees.

Noting that HIV/AIDS transmission is no longer seen as a mere medical issue, Kazerouni said, “Its prevention and control is a major complex issue encompassing various economic, social, cultural, and health aspects that calls for cooperation among all sections of the society.”

  90-90-90 Targets

“Iran is marching ahead with the rest of the world in fast-track ending of the disease by 2030,” Kazerooni noted.

The strategy introduced by UNAIDS, drives the 90–90–90 targets that pursue the following goals: by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of people who know their status are receiving treatment and 90% of people on HIV treatment have a suppressed viral load so their immune system remains strong and the likelihood of their infection being passed on is greatly reduced.

The strategy also includes ambitious targets for HIV prevention and zero discrimination. This includes major reductions in new HIV infections, particularly among the populations most affected, and the elimination of discriminatory laws and practices in healthcare.

“The Health Ministry plans to provide physicians who treat HIV/AIDS with advanced training, improve the quality of implementing existing strategies, and increase accountability of harm reduction efforts, particularly in the case of intravenous drug users,” the official said.

Increasing the number of mandatory medium-term residential centers (camps) for substance-abusers, addiction recovery and rehabilitation centers, as well as drop-in centers (shelters) is a high priority for the ministry.

  Education at All Levels

“We also plan to encourage various sectors and organizations to participate in implementing youth programs on ways to prevent and control AIDS,” Kazerooni said. “To that end, the ministry has devised educational packages in cooperation with the Education Ministry.”

Five youth counseling centers have been set up in high risk districts of Tehran, Kermanshah, Fars, and Khuzestan provinces. Use of new educational methods such as short edifying videos, is also on the agenda.

“The programs are to be sent to universities, military garrisons or any other establishment where the target age group might have a strong presence, including social networks.”

Additionally, programs for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission have been piloted in 16 universities of medical sciences across the country as of last year. They also extend to outlying urban areas through comprehensive health centers where pregnant mothers are informed on how to get tested for AIDS and deal with it if they are infected.

“The chances of mother-to-child transmission can drop to 2% from 30-40% by early diagnosis and treatment,” Kazerouni stressed.

Plans for protection and empowerment of afflicted female breadwinners who constitute a vulnerable group in the society are also underway in cooperation with the Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs.