All-In Centers Reach Out to Adolescents

The initiative was launched last year as a new platform for action to achieve better results by engaging more young people in the global effort to end the epidemic
According to official figures, more than 28,000 people in Iran have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.According to official figures, more than 28,000 people in Iran have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Every hour, 26 adolescents are infected with HIV worldwide, with girls exposed to the highest risk, said UNICEF Representative in Iran, Dr Will Parks, at a workshop involving staff of All-In centers working to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS among adolescents and youth.

The All-In centers for young people have been established by the Health Ministry in a number of cities including Tehran, Ahwaz, Kermanshah and Shiraz as part of a pilot program supported by UNICEF.

The centers are guided by the principles of the ‘All-In’ initiative, a global partnership between UNAIDS and UNICEF, which aims to reach adolescents with HIV services designed for their specific needs and to fast-track global efforts to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030. The effort is part of Sustainable Development Goal 3: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, the reported.

The three-day workshop, held early August  in Tehran, brought together a group of 22 trainers of All-In centers run by NGOs from four provinces and a number of experts from provincial medical universities. Workshop participants exchanged experiences and improved their capacities on raising HIV/AIDS awareness among adolescents and youth.

Parks highlighted the role of NGOs in ensuring that the centers provide effective and sustainable services to adolescents.

The centers testify to the fact that above all other efforts, young people themselves need to be “all in” to end adolescent AIDS through peer to peer interaction. “The more we engage them and support their leadership, the more successful our common efforts will be to end this epidemic together.”

He hailed the efforts of the Health Ministry in openly speaking up about HIV/AIDs among the young generation and its commitment to join the All-In global movement.

Health Ministry’s head of HIV/AIDS Department Dr. Parvin Afsar Kazerooni, presented the latest figures on the spread of HIV/AIDS among youth and adolescents and highlighted the importance of prevention over treatment to end the epidemic by 2030.

Iran is the only country in the Middle East region implementing the initiative and establishing All-In centers.

The All-In, a new platform for action to drive better results for adolescents by encouraging strategic changes in policy and engaging more young people in the effort was launched last year.

  PMTCT Goal

In January, at a three-day Consultative Workshop on Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), Dr Mohammad Mehdi Gooya, director general and head of the Health Ministry’s Center for Communicable Disease Control, had said that Iran plans to reach the goal of zero mother-to-child HIV transmission through a program launched last year.

“We are committed to identify 90% of those infected with HIV till 2020. Those identified as positive need to be under treatment with effective drugs to eliminate the risk of HIV transmission to others.”

 The PMTCT program is under operation in 16 universities, 170 centers and 40 hospitals in the country. It covers 65,000 pregnant women and so far 81,000 HIV rapid tests have been performed on these women; among them 51 were tested positive. The program focuses on timely diagnosis, intervention and retention of mothers in HIV care and treatment programs.

  Official Statistics

HIV is not only a disease, but is also a social, economic, health and behavioral issue.

The government has developed and ratified the 4th National HIV/AIDS Strategic Control Plan which is being implemented in cooperation with the UN and several international organizations.

According to official figures, currently, more than 28,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.  Also, 5% of street women and children and 13% of intravenous drug users have HIV. Based on data, a total of 28,663 HIV-infected people were identified in Iran until September 2014, including 6,435 who have entered the AIDS stage. Of the total registered cases, 89.3% are men and 10.7% are women and among them 45.7% are in the age group 25-34, which is the highest in any age group. The second largest age group comprised 35-44 years old at 28.2%.

Alongside the increase in the number of women living with HIV and those infected by mother-to-child transmission, the number of children under 5 years with HIV was on the rise.

Transmission in all the cases registered since 1986 are: sharing syringes among intravenous drug users (67.2%), sexual intercourse (13.9%), blood transfusion (0.9%), and mother-to-child transmission (1.3%).

Concentrated Among IDUs

While the prevalence of HIV among the general population in Iran remains low, it stands at 13.8% among injecting drug users (IDUs). Accordingly, since HIV prevalence exceeds 5% in this sub-population, the epidemic in Iran is classified as being concentrated.

Concentrated epidemics, if neglected and not addressed by effective counter-measures, have the potential to evolve into generalized epidemics, says a report by UNAIDS.

Measures taken over the past 15 years have successfully slowed progression of the epidemic among IDUs. Nevertheless, injecting drug use remains the most important factor fuelling the epidemic in Iran because the sharing of injecting equipment has not yet reached zero. It is therefore critical to sustain and scale up preventive harm reduction programs quantitatively and qualitatively for this key group in order to reach the goal of zero new infections through injecting drug use. On the other hand, sexual transmission of HIV in Iran is on the rise in recent years such that the proportion of recorded cases attributed to sexual transmission has been steadily growing and the prevalence of HIV among female sex workers has reached 4.5%.

High-risk sexual practices are not rare among young people, and 19.5% of those between 20-29 years old are in this category. In recent years, the use of amphetamine-type stimulants is rising, and the effect of their use on high risk sexual behavior, has caused concern, the report said.