Shift in Transmission Patterns of HIV/AIDS

Shift in Transmission Patterns of HIV/AIDSShift in Transmission Patterns of HIV/AIDS

The rate of sexually-transmitted HIV/AIDS has doubled over the past couple of years in Iran, said Deputy Health Minister Dr. Ali Akbar Sayyari in a meeting in Tehran between the visiting World Health Organization Deputy Director-General Dr. Anarfi Asamoa Baah.

“The transmission pattern of HIV/AIDS has shifted over the recent years from needles/syringes to sexual transmission, which has seen an increase to 30% from the earlier 15%,” he was quoted by ISNA as saying.

He said despite efforts to control its spread, the desirable level of success has not been achieved due to the social and cultural barriers.

“The latest trends in the transmission of the disease should alert us on the significance of creating public awareness, which needs to be widespread,” he stressed. “However, there are cultural constraints in this aspect that impede our work.”

Nevertheless, various measures have been taken to keep the disease in check over the past decade.

They include setting up harm reduction centers (where homeless men and women can visit to get tested for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and receive necessary education as well as means of prevention), methadone therapy for de-addiction which lacks the risks of transmitting the virus and drop-in centers (DICs) for street addicts (where they can get a meal, wash up, and receive clean syringes and medicine).

There are nearly 30 DICs operating across Tehran alone, under the auspices of the State Welfare Organization and non-governmental organizations. Most are located south of Tehran where the drug problem is said to be more acute.

“The government has also set up triangular clinics since 20 years ago as centers for treatment of behavioral diseases which were later extended to prisons,” Sayyari added.

In a three-pronged strategy, such clinics seek to address injecting drug users through a harm reduction approach, provide services for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and treatment, care and support for people with HIV/AIDS.

He also said specific centers to offer health services to women are planned to be set up where they can receive education on prevention of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Nearly 80,000 people in Iran are living with HIV, including 71,000 aged 15 years and above. There have been 4,000 deaths due to AIDS so far.

“There has been a nine-fold growth in the number of people with AIDS in the past 11 years and an 80% increase each year,” Health Minister Hassan Hashemi had said soon after assuming office in 2013.

He expressed serious concern over the rising number of people with HIV in the country, complaining that the current taboo prevents patients from receiving treatment. “The trend is shifting from transmission through drug addicts sharing syringes to transmission through high-risk sexual activities.”

 Int’l Meet in Durban

The World Health Organization is flagging 4 key challenges as the international community meets at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, from July 18–22.

The WHO is highlighting the need to renew attention to HIV prevention, whilst maintaining momentum on scaling up access to HIV treatment. It is also signaling the growing emergence of antiretroviral (ARV) drug resistance and the need for sustainable financing of the global response.

“The enormous progress on HIV, particularly on treatment, is one of the big public health success stories of the century,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, WHO. “But this is no time for complacency. If the world is to achieve its goal of ending AIDS by 2030, it must rapidly expand and intensify its efforts.”