Regional Reports - Afghanistan
Afghan refuges in Iran have little awareness of AIDS
aged 26, worked in Iran illegally for four years, but was deported on 3
January this year. Whilst in Iran he used sex workers and intravenous
drugs - unaware of the risks of contracting HIV.
He is expected to marry and start a family, but is scared of doing an
HIV test. Every year hundreds of thousands of Afghans, mostly young
single males, illegally cross the border into Iran in search of work,
according to the government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Away from home for long periods, some turn to drug abuse or use the
services of commercial sex workers.
“Both men and women sex workers are in abundance in Iran, and they’re
not very expensive,” Ebadullah told IRIN in Herat.
“Among Afghan refugees [in Iran] the use of opiates, hashish and even
heroin is common,” he said, adding that taking drugs intravenously was
Sharing needles is a very efficient way to transmit bloodborne viruses
such as HIV, and has been found to be three times more likely to
transmit the virus than sexual intercourse. When asked whether he had
thought about HIV, the young deportee paused and said: “I don’t know.
They [young men] do not worry about diseases. Sex and drugs are rare
pleasures and people don’t want to spoil them with worries about AIDS.”
Due to their illegal status in Iran, they have few opportunities to get
educated on HIV/AIDS.
Many are illiterate and therefore unable to read health messages. Iran
deported over 360,000 Afghans in 2008, according to government
Herat has one HIV Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) centre but
on average only five people visit it daily, health officials said.
“Social stigma and lack of awareness are major problems. People do not
voluntarily visit our centre,” Mohammad Arif Shahram, the head of
Herat’s VCT centre, told IRIN. Among the 504 officially registered cases
of HIV/AIDS in the country, 41 were reported in Herat Province in the
past three years.
Most of the 41 were infected in Iran, Shahram surmised, based on
evidence he had seen at the VCT centre. “HIV risk factors are higher in
Herat than elsewhere in the country,” said Shahram citing large-scale
trans-border movements and drug addiction as the most serious
However, little has been done to boost awareness of HIV/AIDS among
migrants to Iran. Public health officials in Kabul and Herat said there
was currently no project aimed at raising awareness among them.
Afghanistan kicked off its national HIV/AIDS control programme in 2003
and has received pledges of over US$30 million from donors up to 2013.
The first-ever antiretroviral therapy for about 40 HIV positive people
should start soon.
of upload: 31st March 2009