Kamiar Alaei is a public service professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Albany and the founding Director of the Global Institute for Health and Human Rights. He is an expert on HIV/AIDS, drug policy and international health and human rights. In addition to WHO/CAIRO, he has served as a consultant or temporary advisor to the World Health Organization in Pan American Region (PAHO) to expand health and human rights training programs in the prison system. He and his brother Arash co-founded the first “Triangular Clinic” for three target groups in Iran. His area of expertise, focusing on HIV/AIDS policy and drug policy through an academic perspective with a concentration on central America, the Middle East and Central Asia.
He earned his degrees from Isfahan Medical University (MD), Tehran Medical University (MPH), Harvard University (MS), and the University of Albany (Ph.D.) Alaei is currently completing his degree in international Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. Selected publications include: Alaei A; Alaei K. Drug users need more choices at addiction treatment facilities. British Medical Journal (BMJ). 22 March 2013; and Alaei K; Mansoori D; Alaei A. The response to HBV Vaccine in HIV infected patient’s. J of Archives of Iranian Medicine. Oct. 2003.Vol.6; No.4:20-25.
Prisons for Drug Users
And they call them rehabilitation centers, but they were actually prisons, because they didn’t have access to any healthcare services to get you know supplementary treatment for the addiction, and they had no choice except to you know suffer for a few weeks. And since some of them they were you know drug users that they didn’t have experience of injection. When they got to prison, they may got you know some kind of drugs from other prisoners that they brought inside and they shared needles. And that was the beginning of a history of needle sharing among endocrine drug users inside the prison. So this policy unfortunately continued for almost 20 years, and for 20 years there was no treatment facilities for drug users, and if they arrested any drug users they sent them to these mandatory rehabilitation camps. And they So if they found any drug user, they pushed them to those mandatory rehabilitation camps, and for 20 years they had this kind of policy. And that was the reason that drug users they had to shift their behaviors, and some of they started injecting drugs and sharing needles while they were in prisons.
Break the Silence
…Because HIV doesn’t care about borders. So the first approach was a cultural and language approach, so we had common border with Afghanistan and Afghanistan has come on border with Tajikistan. The three countries they have a similar language and a similar culture. We had the first training program in Iran that we invited representatives from Ministry of Health, you know prison organization, NGOs and to encourage them to work on HIV/AIDS, so when they return they continue their work. They develop a national strategic plan, and then we replicated this training for Iraq. We had the visitors from other countries from Middle East and southeast Asia, and that was the opportunity you know to show another approach as a Muslim country, you know as a more conservative country, how could break the silence.
I think this is very critical that if we don’t focus more on you know HIV education specifically among teenagers and highlighting you know to have protected sex, because the age of puberty is 15; age of you know marriage is more than 30. So they are for more than 15 years at risk for unprotected sex, which put them at risk for sexually transmitted infection, including HIV/AIDS. And my concern is that if you look at data, the last data, if you compare to the year before, the proportion of women who were infected increased three times. …So if you look at data during the past two years, if you compare the recent data to the data which was you know reported last year, the rate of HIV was increasing among women. …and if we don’t provide those protection services prevention of mother-to-child transmission, in the near future we will have a lot of new babies who will be infected by HIV/AIDS.