Health & Medicine

AIDS doctors arrested in Iran

This story is a part of

Human Needs

This story is a part of

Human Needs

The two Iranian brothers, Kamiar and Arash Alaei, have shaken up Iran's HIV/AIDS program.  Their programs focus on needle transmission, but also they deal with sexual issues.

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Kamiar Alaei said, "We have not to judge about our clients.  We ask them, "If you have sex it is better that you have safe sex, so we don't judge who is your partners, it is homosexual or heterosexual."

His brother Arash Alaei said, "They are coming anonymously.  We don't need their I.D. and we have hotline for their questions."  These quotes were from a 2006 interview.

Their work has given Iran one of the best AIDS prevention and treatment programs in the world according to the World Health Organization.  Today however they're in jail according to human rights groups.  On December 31st the brothers were charged with seeking to overthrow the Iranian government.

"Iran has charged that they were trying to foment a velvet revolution through some of their international travel work.  So they have cited some of their trips to AIDS conferences around the world as not a mode of public health outreach, but in fact as a way to recruit people to overthrow the government," says Sarah Kalloch, a spokesperson for Physicians for Human Rights.   

"Physicians for Human Rights believes that they are absolutely innocent of these charges as do the thousands of people around the world who have worked with them.  They are, in fact, the most incredible ambassadors and diplomats for Iran.  They love their country, they celebrate the food and the culture and the history and especially the dance.  I heard Arash is a very good dancer.  And so we believe these to be patently false and in fact their lawyer has not had access to much of the evidence that the government is claiming in this case." 

The Alaei doctors have been working openly for years to stem the spread of HIV in Iran and often it seemed that they pushed the envelope of propriety, at least in the eyes of the Iranian government.  Contradicting Iranian government statements that homosexuality doesn't exist in the country, positing the intravenous drug use in the country.

"We think, and we hope that the Iranian government should in fact be incredibly thrilled by the work that they have done.  They have put Iran on the map in terms of HIV prevention and treatment."

"The world needs the expertise coming out of Iran in terms of harm reduction programs.  Iran has the best programs on this in the world.  The United States needs information on this, Russia, all over the world we need their expertise.  And to imprison Kamiar and Arash for
sharing their expertise, for sharing scientific knowledge coming out of Iran is really tragic.

"There are certainly a great number of Iranian physicians and nurses and medical personnel who are doing great work.  And the Alaeis' are part of a wonderful system; however what we are afraid of is that this arrest will put a chilling effect on every kind of public health exchange coming out of Iran.  And in fact, some of the most renowned world leaders on HIV/AIDS have spoken out in support of the Alaeis and have encouraged Iran to release them," says Kalloch.

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