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Female Sex worker(FSW) in Iran

Iran is one of the countries confronted with an HIV/AIDS epidemic according to data published in 2006 by the Center for Disease Control, Ministry of health and Medical Education, 13,375 HIV infected cases reported totally to ministry of health and education of Iran. It has been estimated that there were over 30,000 infected cases live in Iran with almost 69 million populations in 2004(1) in 1998,1443 HIV positive cases were reported(2), which shows a significant increase over the case of six years. Based on a descriptive study that was done in the twenty years time period (1997-2004)in Iran, the rate of HIV/AIDS infections diagnosed annually among Iranian citizens gradually increased and it reached from 1.38 to 4.6 cases per 100,000 populations per year(3)

According Iran HIV/AIDS progress report to UNAIDS, In 2003 the number of people living with HIV is estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000. In 2005, using the same way to estimation method, the number was estimated to reach 60,000-70,000(4)

As of 22 Sep 2007, a total of 16,090 individuals were reported to be infected with HIV in Iran(4). Based on Ministry of Health and Education , 66.7% of HIV transmission is  attributed to injecting drug use, 7.5% due to sexual contact, 0.5% through mother-to-child transmission, and 1.5% due to transfusion of blood products; the cause of transmission is unclear in 23.7% of cases(4).

Sex workers also known as prostitutes are among the highest at risk groups of HIV infection (5).This group is at risk due to having multiple sex partners, frequent sexual intercourse(6), high risk sexual behaviors such as inconsistent condom use, high probability of be infected by STD and many more .

It is estimated that almost one third(32%) of new HIV infections in Ghana, 14% in Kenya and 10% in Uganda are linked to sex work (HIV infection among sex workers, their clients, or their other sex partners)(7) In fact , sex workers act as a bridge for HIV through their clients and general public.

In several countries in the Middle East especially Iran, limited surveillance have worked on different features of HIV (8). As a result high risk groups such as sex workers are not identified adequately and they are known as a “hard-to-reach” group, because of not having enough information, no HIV program or health strategy has been implemented.

Data from a number of scattered studies indicated that HIV prevalence among non-injecting female sex workers remains low, and certainly has not reached the critical 5% threshold(4). Based on the unpublished study in 2007 from 280 female sex workers in Tehran, Only 154 individuals out of 280 used condom with their last client which accounts for 55% of the population The same study shows that only 7.9% of the sex workers are fully aware of HIV sexual transmission  prevention methods(22 out of 280 individuals). It should be noted that this results indicate low prevalence of condom use and HIV/AIDS preventions knowledge but these 280 female sex workers in Tehran are not representative of the whole country and more in-depth studies are needed.



  1.   UNICEF Iran (Islamic Republic of) – Media centre – HIV/AIDS in Iran [Internet]. [cited 2010 Nov 19];Available from: http://www.unicef.org/iran/media_2016.html
  2.  Mehrabi Tavana A. A look at the situation of AIDS in Iran and world.           HAKIM RESEARCH JOURNAL 1998;2(1): 145-141 [Internet]. [cited 2010 Nov 19];Available from: http://hivdex.ir/query.asp
  3.   Fallahzadeh H, Morowatisharifabad M, Ehrampoosh MH. HIV/AIDS epidemic features and trends in Iran, 1986-2006. AIDS Behav. 2009 Apr;13(2):297–302.
  4.  iran_2008_country_progress_report_en.pdf [Internet]. [cited 2011 May 20];Available from: http://www.unaids.org/en/dataanalysis/monitoringcountryprogress/2008progressreportssubmittedbycountries/iran_2008_country_progress_report_en.pdf
  5.  WHO | Human rights – a central concern for the global HIV response [Internet]. [cited 2011 Jan 23];Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2010/AIDS_Day_20101130/en/#
  6.  Karim QA, Karim SS, Soldan K, Zondi M. Reducing the risk of HIV infection among South African sex workers: socioeconomic and gender barriers. Am J Public Health. 1995 Nov 1;85(11):1521–5.
  7.   20101123_GlobalReport_Chap2_em.pdf [Internet]. [cited 2011 Jun 6];Available from: http://www.unaids.org/documents/20101123_GlobalReport_Chap2_em.pdf
  8.  WHO | Global AIDS epidemic continues to grow [Internet]. [cited 2011 Jan 23];Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/aids.epidemic.update/en/