HIV Programs in Iran (Persia), Iraq and Saudi Arabia: A Brief Review of Current Evidence in West and Southwest Asia

Omid Massah, Afsaneh Moradi, Ali Farhoudian, Mahmood Amini-Lari, Hassan Joulaei, Reza Daneshmand


Background: In Western and Southwest Asia, literature is not documented on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) programs in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The present study is the first brief review that describes HIV programs in these three neighboring countries.

Methods: Data regarding the evidence of HIV programs were gathered through a systematic literature searching. English publications were retrieved through searching online scientific databases. Grey literature was also searched online. The review was based on the studies related to the last decade.

Findings: Systematic searching resulted in retrieving 21,948 studies but only 21 studies were relevant to the study aim. The review findings indicated that Iran has provided a nationwide sero-surveillance data system and has identified its key populations. Detecting HIV prevalence has been limited to case-finding in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. However, strategic plans for HIV have been provided in the three countries. HIV education, knowledge and support have been provided but still needs consideration in the three countries especially in Iraq. The low coverage of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has remained a critical gap in the provision of comprehensive HIV programs in these three countries. This issue has been followed by the lack of opiate substitution therapies for drug dependents and injecting drug users in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Condom promotion and voluntary HIV counselling and testing have been provided for at-risk groups in the three countries but need more nationwide coverages. However, needle and syringe programs (NSPs) have been only provided in Iran.

Conclusion: The review concluded that the provision of effective HIV programs should address training human resources and infrastructural development. This issue should be facilitated by international collaborations and governmental supports.


HIV; Iran; Iraq; Saudi Arabia; Persian Gulf

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