Iran challenges taboos on discussing sex as HIV rate rises

TEHRAN, Iran

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran is facing a rising number HIV infections from intercourse, especially among its youth, which has forced the Islamic Republic to confront taboos surrounding discussing sex.

According to government statistics, 66,000 people out of Iran’s population of 80 million have HIV, with nearly half of them unaware that they have the virus. Authorities say more than 50 percent of those with HIV are between the ages of 21 and 35.

Psychologist Atefeh Azimi is among those who have dared challenge the long-standing taboos, speaking publicly about the need for safe sex, sex education and regular HIV testing.

She is often found in a poor eastern Tehran neighborhood, known for drug addicts, drawing blood from a worried passer-by’s finger and urging the public to receive free voluntary counseling and HIV testing.

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