Drug Prevention, Treatment and HIV/AIDS
The problem of drug use is a serious challenge in Iran. According to the national authorities, there are over 1,325,000 opiate dependents in the country (2.26% of the adult population), placing Iran among the countries with the highest prevalence of opiate use worldwide. The use of crystallized heroin is increasing, as opposed to the traditional less disadvantageous use of opium. Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS), notably Methamphetamine (known as "Shisheh" in the illegal market, meaning "glass" in Farsi), have rapidly risen to become the second most important group of drugs used in Iran. Furthermore, the drug use problem has been expanding among larger groups in the society like younger adults and women, who had traditionally comprised the minority among sub-populations that use drugs in the country.
Drug use is closely linked to both the transmission of HIV and high rates of imprisonment. According to the data reported by the Iranian authorities in the Global AIDS Report 2013, the number of Iranians living with HIV is estimated at 71,000 (range: 53,000-100,000), approximately 68% among whom have acquired the virus through unsafe drug injecting practices. Nearly 15% of the Injecting Drug Users and 3-5% of people who use drugs through non-injecting routes are HIV-positive, and thus represent a serious potential source of HIV infection for their marital and non-marital sexual partners. As for incarcerations, about half of them in Iran are due to drug-related offences and half the inmates have used drugs prior to imprisonment. In addition, behaviours such as drug use, unsafe tattooing and unsafe sex place prisoners at high risk of acquiring HIV and Hepatitis C.
In the past 15 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has established many successful programmes for addressing the problems of drugs and HIV in the various areas of prevention, treatment, and care on a large scale in communities and prisons. Many communities benefit from outreach programmes, Drop-in Centres (DICs) and other initiatives, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are also actively involved in programme implementation and service delivery in the field. Moreover, Iran is a pioneer country in the fields of opium substitution therapies, HIV prevention, and treatment of AIDS, and successful HIV prevention and treatment programmes are being rolled out in the prison setting. Notwithstanding these commendable efforts, there is still urgent need for the quantitative and qualitative expansion of existing programmes as well as introduction of new programmes for a proper response to the problem of HIV and drug use in the country.
Many of the drug demand reduction and HIV prevention programmes in Iran were taken up after their first introduction and piloting by UNODC Iran. For more information on UNODC Iran action in this field: