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Monday, 27 November, 2000, 17:02 GMT
Iran Aids figures released
Iranian student protests
Tattooing is all the rage with Iran's young
An estimated 10,000 Iranians are infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, according to official Health Ministry figures just released.

Of these, only 2,207 are officially registered as HIV-positive.

The figures were released at a conference being held in Tehran ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December.

The issue of aids has traditionally been a very sensitive one in Iran, with few official records on the illness available, and little open discussion of the disease.

Tattooing ban

On Sunday, the Health Ministry announced plans to ban tattooing in an attempt to control what it called the "time bomb" of the HIV virus.

Official statistics
65% of HIV transfer through intravenous drug use
12% through sexual contact
9% through blood transfusion
1% passed on from mother to child
13% unknown

"There is a time bomb ticking in Iran and we have to take it seriously," Health Minister Mohammad Farhadi said.

Tattoos have become a sought-after fashion accessory among Iran's middle class youth. However, correspondents say that the sharp rise in drug use is the authorities' greatest cause for concern.

Intravenous drug use accounts for 65% of HIV infections in Iran, according to official statistics.

Iran is a major trade route for narcotics coming from neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan, and heading for the markets of Europe and the Gulf.

World Aids Day

According to a report delivered at the Tehran Aids conference by the Secretary of the National Committee to Combat Aids, Dr Bahram Yeganeh, more than one million people are routinely tested for HIV in Iran.

These include drug addicts, those suffering from sexually transmitted diseases and people who travel abroad frequently.

Dr Yeganeh said medicines to treat Aids patients were provided by the state free of charge and provided to prison officials to treat the large number of sufferers among the prison population.

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See also:

04 Nov 99 | Aids
Aids up close
10 Jun 99 | Middle East
Uproar at Iranian Aids trial
23 Nov 99 | Health
HIV hits 50 million
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