Increase in Sexually Transmitted HIV

The Health Ministry says 30%-35% of Iranians infected with the virus are aware of their condition.The Health Ministry says 30%-35% of Iranians infected with the virus are aware of their condition.

Nearly 33,227 people with HIV/AIDS have been identified in the country, of whom 84% are men and 16% women, as per the official figures released last October.

It is estimated that at least 75,000 more Iranians are infected with the virus, meaning that many who are infected are unaware of their condition and could transfer the virus to others, said Dr. Homeira Fallahi, a senior official at the Health Ministry’s AIDS Office.

“Currently, 54% of the global population infected with the virus are aware of their condition while this figure is 30%-35% in Iran, which indicates that we are lagging behind other countries in identification of infected people” (which is the main strategy to prevent the disease from spreading to others), Khabaronline quoted her as saying. 

Pointing to the increasing rates of sexually transmitted HIV infections, Fallahi said in the first six months of the current year that ends in March, “37% of the newly identified patients were injection drug users (IDUs) and 40% got the disease through unprotected sexual activity.”

Since the beginning of the first HIV case registered in 1985, sexually transmitted infections constituted only 18.6% of all cases, which indicates that this mode of HIV transmission is on the rise and has become a critical challenge over the past decade. 

In response to a query on how HIV can be contained, she said enhanced education and improving knowledge on the disease among young people plays a crucial role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Interventions are necessary to reduce the prevalence of high-risk sexual practices in order to control the disease. Adolescents who know more about HIV are also more likely to get tested.

Moreover, education, information and communication strategies help inform people on the disease transmission and the ways to reduce the risks, she added.

  Pilot Plan to Prevent MCT 

Fallahi also pointed to a pilot plan implemented from the second half of the current year (ends in March) in 16 universities of medical science and affiliated hospitals to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The program has helped prevent infection in 34 babies and will be implemented across the country in the near future.

Under the program, all pregnant women in first and second trimesters are tested for HIV and antiretroviral treatment is provided to women who are HIV positive.

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 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%.

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