Islamic Republic of Iran

UNODC and Drug Control Headquarters Held a Training Workshop on HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care, and Treatment for NGOs Providing Services to Vulnerable Groups

19-21 June 2011, Tehran- A three-day training workshop was jointly organized by UNODC and Drug Control Headquarters for the representatives of 16 NGOs and Drop-In-Centres providing drugs and HIV/AIDS-related services to drug users, including refugees, in various provinces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Exchanging experiences, updating the knowledge of the staff, and putting emphasis on considering the special needs of refugees were the objectives of the training workshop. Iran hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, officially estimated at 1.5 million; unofficial estimations suggest that their total number may exceed 3 million, most of whom Afghans. Refugees and displaced people are particularly vulnerable to social harms such as drug abuse and HIV/AIDS, usually due to their limitations in accessing adequate education and services.

The event was opened by the speech of Mr. Kaveh Moradi, UNODC Deputy Representative, who pointed out to the humanitarian nature of the drop-in-centers' work. He also emphasized the important role played by outreach programmes and their staff in providing harm reduction services. Furthermore, he referred to budget deficiency and stressful working environment as some of the challenges encountered by drop-in-centres targeting vulnerable groups.

Dr. Mohammad Bagher Saberi Zafarghandi, Drug Control Headquarters' Director General for Treatment and Social Supports, remarked the fact that "treatment and harm reduction services should be delivered to all people, regardless of their gender, race, religion, and nationality". He also added that "ignoring the refugee population in the country can put the whole harm reduction programme at risk of failure".   Regarding HIV transmission, he reminded that, although the statistics show a reduction in the number of HIV transmission through injecting drug use in Iran, due to the involvement of drug users in high risk sexual behaviors, around 90 percent of the HIV transmission cases in the country are directly or indirectly connected to drug addiction. Finally, Dr. Saberi Zafarghandi advocated for the inclusion of trainings on prevention of HIV sexual transmission in the services provided by harm reduction organizations operating in the country.

During the following two and a half day of training workshop, the participants reviewed some of the main principles of drug and HIV/AIDS control programmes: needle & syringe programme, condom promotion and safe sex, opioid substitution treatment, voluntary counseling & testing, tuberculosis & hepatitis prevention and treatment, antiretroviral treatment, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Whenever applicable, group works and/or role-playing games were organized to further clarify the messages of the training. Special emphasis was put on reducing stigma and discrimination in the provision of services.

UNODC will continue to support NGOs active in the field of drug demand reduction, providing them with training and support, in the framework of its new Country Programme for Technical Cooperation on Drugs and Crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran (2011-2014) - particularly under sub-programme 2 on Drug Demand Reduction and HIV Control. Such activities have been generously funded by the Government of Norway.