HIV Rising Among Women

Effective prevention will require that women and infants have access to a wide range of interventions such as HIV testing during pregnancy and antenatal services, antiretroviral treatment of infected pregnant women, and safe childbirth practices
Annually 4,000 people lose their lives due to the disease.Annually 4,000 people lose their lives due to the disease.

A total of 31,950 people infected with HIV have been identified in the country, among whom 84% are men and 16% women, said Mohammad Mahdi Guya, head of the Health Ministry’s Management Center of Infectious Diseases.

Speaking on the sidelines of a national conference on Monitoring Progress and Evaluation of the 4th Strategic Plan for HIV Prevention in Tehran, he said the number of infected people two years ago was 28,663 and among them 89% were men, and 11% women, Mehr News Agency reported.  So far, 6,435 of the identified cases have entered AIDS stage.

Pointing to the increase in the number of women infected with the virus, he warned that they can pass on the disease to their babies at any time during pregnancy, and childbirth. The risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is the greatest during delivery. Without treatment, the likelihood of HIV transmission from mother-to-child is 15% to 45%.

“A nationwide implementation of the plan to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV will begin in the second half of the current year (started in March),” said Dr Parvin Afsar Kazerouni, head of the Office for Controlling of AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

“Effective prevention will require that women and infants have access to a wide range of interventions including antenatal services and HIV testing during pregnancy, antiretroviral treatment of infected pregnant women, and safe childbirth practices,” she said.  

Mahdi Guya further said that as per the ministry’s calculations, the number of individuals identified with HIV comprises only 30% of people infected by the virus, while “70% remain unidentified and may not be aware of their condition yet.”

According to the UNAIDS website, there are 1,400-2,800 children aged 0 to 14 living with HIV. Annually 4,000 people lose their lives due to the disease and the number of orphans aged 0 to 17 whose parents died of AIDS has been estimated at 13,000-25,000.

Until September 2014, of the total registered cases, 45.7% of HIV infected cases are in the 25-34 age, the highest in any age group. The second largest age group was those in the 35-44 years bracket with 28.2%.

  Medications Available

Currently, 26 antiretroviral medications are available in the country of which 7 are produced domestically. The costs of all these drugs are fully covered by insurance. The government spends $140-$715 for treatment of each individual diagnosed with the disease, said Kazerouni.

The pilot PMTCT plan started two years ago in 16 universities of medical sciences in 16 provinces. “By the end of the current year in March 2017, the plan will be implemented in all health centers across the country, in particular centers in city fringes which provide services to people living in informal settlements.”

According to Dr. Fardad Doroudi, UNAIDS executive director in Iran, the implementation of the pilot plan which was developed jointly by UNAIDS and the Health Ministry concluded last month.

The pattern of transmission of HIV/AIDS has shifted over the recent years from needles/syringes to sexual transmission that has seen an increase of 30% from the earlier 15%.

Iran is committed to achieve the 90-90-90 targets for testing, treatment and viral suppression by 2020 which means 90% of people infected by the virus should be identified in the country and 90% of people diagnosed with HIV should receive antiretroviral medications. By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression, IRNA reported.

Viral suppression does not mean a person is cured; HIV still remains in the body but the treatment can reduce HIV transmission by up to 96%.

  Effective PMTCT Programs Necessary

With sexual transmission of HIV on the rise in recent years 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%.

This has also led to a corresponding increase in the number of pregnant women living with HIV and an increasing number of children born with the disease. Even though the absolute number of these children remains low, failure to expand efficient PMTCT programs could prove problematic in the future, UNAIDS reported.

High-risk sexual practices are not rare among young people and in recent years, the use of amphetamine-type stimulants is also rising, and the effect of their use on high risk sexual behavior is a matter of concern, the report said.

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