Imprisoned Iran medics win prize for HIV work

Two Iranian doctors imprisoned for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government have been awarded a global health prize.Kamiar and Arash Alaei were arrested in June 2008 and accused of communicating with the US to unseat the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.One of the two brothers, released earlier this year, was able to accept the award in Washington.Kamiar Alaeia, 37, said they had never been involved in politics.He told the BBC World Service that a project they began in a small clinic was so successful it was replicated nationwide and in the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and Tajikistan.“It was beyond borders really and the programme became part of the national strategic plan. When it was part of a national strategy all we did was part of the strategy and we never went into politics or other [things],” he said.The brothers began treating patients with HIV in the late 1990s, and developed a three-pronged program that integrated prevention, care and social support.Mr Alaei said Iran’s unique demographics, with 70% of the population being under 30 years old. meant that many in the country were at risk of HIV/Aids.”Approximately 50% of the general population are between 17 and 27 years old. So we have a huge number of people who are at risk of addiction, injection, sexually transmitted infections and other HIV-related risk factors.”

Mr Alaei’s elder brother Arash, 42, remains in Tehran’s Evin prison where he is serving a six-year sentence.The brothers received the Global Health Council’s Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.Kamiar, who was initially kept in solitary confinement, said he will not feel free until his brother is allowed to leave prison.”I feel I am not released yet,” he said in an interview with AFP.”The majority of nights I go back to prison and I continue my life in prison.” – BBC