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Health Official Confirms Widespread HIV Infection In Southwestern Iran

A scene from protests in Lordegan, Iran. October 5, 2019
A scene from protests in Lordegan, Iran. October 5, 2019

More than three weeks after the enraged people of a village in southwest Iran poured into streets accusing medical authorities of infecting dozens with the HIV virus, the head of the Islamic Republic center for strategic medical sciences research has confirmed that the village and its nearby town are indeed a center of HIV infections.

Hundreds of angry people of Chenar Mahmoud village stormed the Friday Prayer Imam's office in the nearby city of Lordegan, on Saturday, October 5, and set it on fire.

They also attacked the Governor's building and chanted caustic slogans against the Islamic Republic establishment.

At least 300 people, including children, are believed to have been infected with HIV in the province by a medical assistant using a contaminated syringe, angry residents said.

The demonstrators insisted that their loved ones contracted HIV from contaminated needles used by the village's health center that was testing for diabetes two months earlier.

The outbreak had also affected residents of neighboring villages.

However, the local health authorities dismissed the allegation, pointing out that they had detected the cases of HIV in the village weeks before the diabetes tests.

Nonetheless, they stopped short of saying why their finding was kept secret.

As in similar previous cases, the Islamic Republic authorities blamed "hostile foreign governments" for the protests of villagers in a remote part of the country.

"A limited number of 'opportunists' attempted to create disruption and sedition outside the Governor's building, but failed," officials said.

The protests which had begun a week earlier, gained momentum on October 5, and the security forces used tear gas to disperse angry crowds.

Speaking on the sidelines of "Epidemiology in Iran" conference, the head of the Research Center for Strategic Medical Sciences Dr. Ali Akbar Haqdoust disclosed on Wednesday, Ocotber 29 that the town of Lordegan had already been recognized as one of the country's "centers" with people infected with HIV.

Nonetheless, Haqdoust avoided naming the other "centers" in Iran, where a significant number of people are infected with the virus. He also did not say whether the infections were a mistake by health workers or it had other causes.

Moreover, Haqdoust, whose strategic research center is a subdivision of the Ministry of Health, dismissed the uprising in Lordegan as incidents that are highlighted in certain periods but soon diminish and later forgotten.

A member of Majles' (parliament) Health Commission, Behrouz Bonyadi, promised on Saturday, October 5, that the commission was sending a delegation along with several other lawmakers to Lordegan to investigate the case.

Nevertheless, there are no reports available on the promised delegation and its findings, if there were any.