Iran has implemented special programs in recent years to raise public awareness on HIV/AIDS and gained success in controlling the disease.
World AIDS Day on December 1 mobilizes people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrates international solidarity in the face of the pandemic.
The day is an opportunity for public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the pandemic and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in high-prevalence countries and around the world.
The 2012 theme for World AIDS Day is “Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation”.
Preventive measures, including providing drug injectors with healthy syringes and educating couples on healthy sexual activities, are the main focus of activities held in recent years to reduce the rate of the disease.
Statistics show that AIDS-related deaths have dropped in Iran and more affected people are receiving treatment.
According to official statistics, 15,000 Iranians have been diagnosed with AIDS by the first half of the current Iranian year (started March 20, 2012), 90 percent of whom are male. However, unofficial figures put the number of those affected by the virus at 95,000.
Announcing the above, Mehrnaz Rasoulinejad, a scientific board member of Tehran Medical University, said the overwhelming majority of HIV patients in Iran are drug injectors who are infected by the virus through reusing contaminated needles.
“While having risky and unsafe sexual behavior and multiple sex partners have been identified as the main culprit in increasing HIV infections across the world, drug abusers, especially the injecting ones, comprise the largest number of HIV-positive people in Iran,” she said.
She noted that drug abusers account for 70 percent of HIV patients in Iran.
Recent efforts to control the spread of the disease among drug abusers have produced good results, such that Iran has kept the prevalence of the disease among this high-risk group at 15 percent.
“Only 10 percent of HIV carriers in Iran have been infected through unsafe sexual behavior and the remaining 20 percent have fallen victim to the disease through contact with contaminated blood products, including the staff of hospitals,” she said, adding that the virus is also transmitted from mother to baby.
Rasoulinejad, who is also the deputy head of HIV/AIDS Research Center, said the HIV virus is not transmitted through normal daily activities such as a handshake.
“HIV-positive individuals can have a normal lifespan, if they were to take their medicines and observe health safety rules pertaining to the disease,” she said, stressing that citizens should also be educated about the ways of HIV transmission to reduce the stigma associated with the disease.
Rasoulinejad said AIDS can be prevented easily.
“The best way to combat the disease is to prevent it by educating people on the ways of its transmission,” she said.
The HIV/AIDS Research Center has devised a number of plans since its establishment to control the disease in Iran.
Rasoulinejad said that life-saving treatment is accessible to HIV patients.
“HIV/AIDS patients in Iran are provided with antiretroviral drugs free of charges in special AIDS centers,” she said, adding that those suspected of having been infected with the virus can get themselves tested at these centers.
She noted that the personal information of patients remains secret in these centers and patients can receive regular consultations.
“The establishment of special AIDS clinics across the country has been a huge success for Iran’s health sector such that Iran was hailed by the United Nations for its disease control activities,” she said.
On the symptoms of HIV, Rasoulinejad said the HIV virus invades cells and weakens the body’s immune system such that the body can no longer resist against the simplest infectious diseases and the patient becomes prone to different types of cancers.
“When the virus invades the body, no clear symptoms are recognizable,” she said, adding that in some cases victims have flu-like symptoms within several weeks of exposure to the virus, including headache, sore throat and fatigue, which disappear on their own.
Rasoulinejad said the symptoms of the disease will emerge 10-15 years after the preliminary infection with the progression of the disease.
“Those who get infected with the HIV virus will not develop AIDS symptoms until 15 years and AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV,” she said, emphasizing that at present, there is no definitive treatment for AIDS in the world and the best method is prevention.
According to global statistics, Africa is the region most affected by the virus.
Women Under-Represented in UNSC
When the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted the landmark resolution No. 1325 back in 2000, it was supposed to integrate gender into its core mandate: the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security.
But implementation of that longstanding resolution --focusing on women, peace and security--has fallen short of expectations, IPS reported.
A new study released by the Non-Governmental Organization Working Group (NGOWG) on Women, Peace and Security points out that while there has been development in policy and normative frameworks, deployment of this knowledge and subsequent necessary action has been inconsistent at best.
“In key country situations, there has been no action at all,” says the report titled “Mapping Women, Peace and Security in the UN Security Council: 2011-2012.”
The 15-member UNSC is scheduled to meet next week to discuss women, peace and security under the presidency of Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the permanent representative of India to the United Nations.
Asked if the notable absence of women’s permanent representatives (PRs) in the traditionally male-dominated UNSC could also be a factor in the marginalization of women, Sarah Taylor, executive coordinator of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security said, “The short answer to this question is that, of course, women are under-represented in leadership positions in the UNSC.
“And that more women in these positions sends an important message to the global community about women’s right to participate at the highest levels of decision-making on all matters of peace and security.”
Taylor said it is important, however, to draw out the long answer to that question in order to get to whether more women would make a difference in implementation of women, peace and security obligations.
Because representation at the PR level in the UN is due to seniority in member-state governments, “we can see that under-representation of women in these positions is indicative of the general under-representation of women at all levels of decision-making.”
Japanese Elderly Volunteer For Fukushima Cleanup
For the former industrial engineer Yastel Yamada, retirement has not meant he can finally stop working. Instead, the 73-year-old and about 700 other skilled seniors across Japan have volunteered to tackle the most dangerous part of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant cleanup and spare a younger generation from the effects of extreme radiation.
Yamada and his army of radiation Samaritans are among a growing number of civil society groups across Japan that are taking measures to inform the public about the lingering dangers of radiation and advocate for a stronger government response to the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, News.indialocals.com reported.
“By the time we develop cancer, we will be dead anyways,” Yamada told IPS, following a recent tour through the United States to promote the efforts of his organization, the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima (SVCF).
One of SVCF’s goals is to build international political pressure to force the Japanese government to take charge of the disaster and bring global experts into the plant recovery process, which will take an estimated 20 years of ongoing cleanup and monitoring for up to 40.
About 400 companies currently perform various cleanup tasks at Fukushima Dai-ichi, according to the engineer, who explained that the elaborate, multi-layered subcontracting structure is standing in the way of the veterans’ efforts to work on the site.
China Easing Family Planning Rules
China is mulling changes to its one-child policy, a former family planning official said, with government advisory bodies drafting proposals in the face of a rapidly aging society in the world’s most populous nation.
Proposed changes would allow for urban couples to have a second child, even if one of the parents is themselves not an only child, the China Daily cited Zhang Weiqing, the former head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, as saying on Wednesday.
Under current rules, urban couples are permitted a second child if both parents do not have siblings. Looser restrictions on rural couples mean many have more than one child.
Population scholars have cited mounting demographic challenges in their calls for reform of the strict policy, introduced in 1979 to limit births in China, which now has 1.34 billion people.
Poor Pupils Entering British Universities
Forcing universities to admit rising numbers of teenagers with lower entry grades risks setting them up to ‘fail, one of Britain’s most prestigious institutions has warned.
In an unprecedented intervention, St Andrews University said it was “utterly dishonest” to dumb down admission requirements to create a more socially-balanced student body, Telegraph reported.
Problems with children’s upbringing and schooling were to blame for a lack of working-class students claiming places at the country’s elite universities, it was claimed.
Stephen Magee, St Andrews’ vice-principal with responsibility for admissions, said that politicians could not continue to “lay responsibility for widening access solely at the door of universities.”
It represents the strongest criticism yet leveled by an individual university toward policies designed to force institutions to boost access to students from the poorest families.
Reading and writing can help protect the brains of older people and insure them against deterioration as they age, says a new study.