28 June 2007 A senior official from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) currently in Iran has called for maximum efforts to prevent HIV and AIDS from becoming a general epidemic in the country.
“I am very impressed by Iran’s social programme and in particular the country’s approach to health issues,” said Omar Abdi, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, on Wednesday.
“Iran’s experience in these fields can serve as a useful model for other countries and could be central for increased south-south cooperation on social issues.”
At the same time, the official, who is in Iran for the first time on a two-day visit, called for more action on the prevention of HIV and AIDS. Touring a prevention project in Yaftabad, Western Tehran, where UNICEF supports peer outreach education for adolescents who are at risk of contracting the disease, he called for particular attention to the needs of the young.
“Children must be at the forefront of the fight against AIDS. Around the world, millions of children are missing parents, siblings, schooling, health care, basic protection and many other fundamentals of childhood because of the toll AIDS is taking on their societies,” he said, adding that UNICEF is working to spread information about prevention.
Christian Salazar, the agency’s Representative in Iran, said that UNICEF Iran was advocating for a broad-based awareness-raising programme on HIV/AIDS prevention among young people.
“We are partnering with the media, celebrities and religious leaders in the country to inform young people of how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. But another key ally in these efforts are young people themselves – through peer-to-peer education, they can be the most effective proponents of behaviour change,” he said.
In Iran, UNICEF activities in the field of HIV and AIDS prevention include seminars and conferences with government officials and civil society representatives as well as high-level advocacy efforts by the UNICEF Representative.
Peer education programmes are also part of the effort, including the “expansion of adolescent friendly-service centres that provide information on health and life skills in a youth-friendly manner,” UNICEF said in a news release.
Iran currently has some 14,500 officially registered HIV/AIDS cases, representing 0.16 per cent of the population.
During his visit, Mr. Abdi is also scheduled to meet key Iranian officials, including the Head of the Expediency Council and former Iranian President, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, Minister of Health and Medical Education Kamran Bagheri Lankarani, and the Deputy for Legal and International Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, Sayed Abbas Araghchi, UNICEF said.