Iran’s Openness About AIDS

Despite all the hype about Iran being a strict Islamic society and its government being radically Islamist, Iran has been taking a very liberal approach to AIDS in recent years.

In a region where other Muslim governments ignore the epidemic, quarantine HIV-infected people or preach abstinence as the only solution, Iran’s approach is especially remarkable.

It still doles out floggings to Iranians caught with alcohol, but it gives clean syringes and methadone treatment to heroin addicts. Health workers pass out condoms to prostitutes. Government clinics in every region offer free HIV testing, counseling and treatment. A state-backed magazine just began a monthly column that profiles HIV-positive Iranians, and last year the postal service unveiled a stamp emblazoned with a red ribbon for AIDS awareness. This year the government will devote an estimated $30 million to the program.

Iran is said to have one of the best prison programs in the world for drug addicts, and it’s one of the six or so nations in the world that has a functional needle-exchange program.

While Iran gives constant updates on the number and status of its AIDS patients and has preventative programs in place, even India is showing apathy about AIDS– let alone other countries in the Middle East.

And now, as this report says, Iran has held its first AIDS Film Festival on Feb 21-22 in Tehran.

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