Religious dreams vs. harsh reality in Iran

Fri 26 Aug 2011 00:00 GMT | 04:00 Local Time

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News.Az reprints from an article by Amir Mostafavi.

In life, there is often a huge gap between blissful theory and reality. In our country, we can see examples of this everywhere – in talks about democracy while actually authorities brutally suppress free demonstrations of people, violate their rights and freedoms. Religious dogmatism has become the norm which has no escaping. But does it bring real results? Experience shows that not always and not everywhere.

Here are official figures - according to official statistics, one person is infected with AIDS in Iran every six hours. Member of the Center for AIDS Research Seid Ahmed Ali Nagi said, according to official statistics, there is currently more than 22,000 people infected with HIV, while the number is over 100,000 people in reality!

Think about this figure, please. It turns out that, despite clerics inculcate religion, as can be seen even from these data, it is AIDS that prospers. And AIDS is known to be transmitted primarily through sex or drugs. Of course, someone might say that the fact of infection every six hours is not an indicator for a country with 80,000,000 population. Indeed, at first sight it is. But lets add the numbers together, and we see that on average four people gets affected through drugs a day, 18 - a week and as may as 72 people – a month! And this is a noticeable amount. This means 846 infected individuals a year.

This is only official statistics which is always far from reality in our case.

Now let's see the ways in which AIDS is transmitted and which people belong to so-called "high risk group". They are sexual way, drugs syringes and through blood transfusions. The latter path is very rare while the drug and sex are major ways of spread of the disease. I already wrote that sex between men is more common in our country than it is stated and this is one of the ways of AIDS transmission. Drug addiction is a scourge of our youth, and it happens that a syringe with a "dose" of a sick person infects a number of healthy persons. One should not forget about prostitution as another source of spread of AIDS.

However, though AIDS is a deadly disease, there are no extensive debates over this matter in our society. The reason is a notorious "false modesty", due to which we even do not know the real number of HIV-infected people, since most of them have not yet been examined. The number of infected people has risen sharply since problem is being hushed up and people lack proper information on ways of spread of the disease.

I mentioned three major sources of AIDS transmission - drug addiction, homosexuality and prostitution - not in vain. According to recent data from our Health Ministry, 93.7 percent of AIDS patients are men, and only 6.3 percent are women. The answer to the “why” question is that 81 percent of infected people acquired the virus through drug injection (dirty syringes) and 12 percent - through sexual contact.

Given that drug users and homosexual are men, this statistics is not surprising at all. What is surprising is that so little attention is paid to the problem, which becomes more acute (in addition to growing addiction). Moreover - it, as I said, is hushed up. The more we ignore AIDS question, the larger scale it gains…

One can not say that nothing is done in this regard. But we see artificial barriers to the fight against AIDS. For example, it took activists from organizations to combat the spread of the disease about thirty meetings with officials to get permission to publish a thin booklet for high school students in Iran! Do you know why? Because, at first, the image of a condom was removed from the book due to censorship and a photo of a syringe was retouched. The section on sexual transmission of the virus remains in a form shortened and updated by religious precepts!

In fact, fighting the spread of AIDS in our case is a struggle primarily between activists willing to speak openly about sex and drugs due to HIV infection while ayatollahs insist on maintaining external morality (even though everyone knows that AIDS is far from Puritan's disease). And the struggle needs to be wide-ranging drug addicts, addicted to heroin, should be given sterile syringes, prostitutes (yes, we have them!) should be provided with condoms and large-scale free tests need to be conducted to detect AIDS. This should be done not only in Tehran but also in other parts of the country, as well as in prisons, which are one of the most dangerous places of spread of a virus.

This is not right to perceive a struggle against AIDS as a fight only against this disease. No, it's a whole chain of social relations and actions, which include primarily the fight against drugs. Indeed, initiatives to combat the spread of this infection are aimed at protecting society and should not be blocked. The attitude towards AIDS patients, as well as representatives of risk groups - drug addicts, released prisoners, homosexuals and prostitutes should be improved everywhere. They are people just like us. They just might be less fortunate in life...

We do have initiatives to fight AIDS , but they need to be expanded to a much larger scale since the number of infected patients is growing. So, it's time to fight AIDS, not only among addicts, but also among homosexuals and prostitutes. No one wants to protect yet. And one just needs to admit that we do not have a society that Islamists dreamed of and therefore we should not be shy and hush up problems but solve them. It's time to demand this from the government is, until not one person gets infected every six minutes instead of six hours.

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