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Islamic Republic of Iran: Implementing a Program To Fight HIV/AIDS in Prisons

NCJ Number
Corrections Compendium Volume: 31 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 2006 Pages: 8-16
Gary Hill
Date Published
January 2006
9 pages
This article describes measures taken in Iranian prisons that were designed to counter the HIV/AIDS epidemic that began in 1996 in the prisons of Kerman and Kermanshah provinces.
Because HIV information was scarce at the time, prison personnel perceived HIV primarily as a social stigma that warranted the isolation of those infected; they were treated with contempt and given minimal services. As more scientific information became available and discussions were held between international HIV/AIDS experts and Iran's religious leaders, more enlightened approaches to the epidemic emerged. As a first step, a National AIDS Committee was established, composed of members from a variety of religious, correctional, government, and civil society. Initially, a few education programs were developed that gradually expanded from prisons to Provinces, and finally to a national level. The first comprehensive practical step in addressing HIV/AIDS occurred in 2001 with the development of voluntary testing and counseling clinics in Kermanshah City and its central prison. These types of clinics were then established in other Provinces. The National Harm Reduction Committee was also created in 2001. It is composed of representatives from nongovernmental organizations, university professors, individuals with HIV/AIDS, religious leaders, prison organizations, the judiciary, police, blood-transfusion organizations, food and drug organizations, the Red Crescent Society, and the national drug control headquarters. Harm reduction strategies in prisons have included the distribution of injection needles and syringes, as well as other personal devices for inmate addicts and those with HIV/AIDS; methadone maintenance programs; a bleach distribution program for the cleaning of shared tattooing tools; and the provision of rooms for conjugal visits (condoms and education material provided). Although many of the approaches being taken are controversial, the focus has been on harm reduction based in research and guided by health considerations.