The director of Iran's penitentiary system warned Saturday of a spread of AIDS in the country's prisons and called on the government to take urgent measures to combat it.
"AIDS has infiltrated our prisons and if nothing is done society will be seriously hurt," Morteza Bakhtiari said at a conference on AIDS, as quoted by the state news agency IRNA.
Bakhtiari, who did not give any figure on the number of inmates with AIDS, said his office was coming up with workshops to teach prisoners how to avoid contracting the disease.
Official state statistics say that 2,000 Iranians have AIDS, although the number could be higher. Up to 80 percent of Iranians with AIDS contracted the HIV virus sexually, according to the government.
Another major cause of HIV transmission for Iranian prisoners is the use of unclean needles. About 70 percent of Iran's 150,000 prisoners are in prison on drug-related convictions, according to official statistics.
The first case of AIDS in Iran, a one-year-old boy who contracted the HIV virus through a blood transfusion, was recorded in 1985. The country has since banned blood imports.
In the 1990s, the Iranian government started an anti-AIDS information campaign and founded a resource center for people who are HIV-positive - TEHRAN (AFP)
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