Iranian-born Harvard scientist Dr. Navid Madani (l), an NIAID grantee, helped organize Iran’s first international HIV/AIDS conference.
Photo: Tehran University of Medical Sciences
Scientific engagement between Iran and the United States is flourishing and includes a number of research partnerships involving NIH.
Several Americans, led by an NIH grantee, traveled to Iran recently for the country’s first international and fifth annual HIV/AIDS conference. It was organized by UNAIDS and the Iranian Research Center for HIV/AIDS, part of Tehran University Medical School. Topics ranged from the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, to harm reduction through examination of transmission routes, to strategies to strengthen Iran’s overall response to HIV/AIDS.
NIAID grantee Dr. Navid Madani helped organize the event. The Iranian-born Harvard scientist said she received a warm response from the host scientific community. “Iranians place a high value on establishing international scientific collaborations and in building research capacity in their country,” she noted.
There are a number of longstanding research collaborations between NIH and NIH-funded researchers and their Iranian counterparts on topics including cancer, heart disease, hepatitis and opiate addiction.
In the case of HIV/AIDS, Iran’s approach provides a useful model, Madani suggested. “Iran can be the beacon for all the countries around it.” Iranian health officials have taken measures to decrease both the HIV infection rate and the disease’s stigma, she said. In addition, they offer free condoms, voluntary testing and include prison inmates in their outreach.
“We can learn so much from Iran and its grassroots model of health houses in each village, not just to benefit our primary health care but also our approach to HIV prevention and care,” said Madani.
The country’s latest strategic plan to combat HIV/AIDS acknowledged the virus is increasingly spread through sexual contact. With more than 24,000 Iranians testing positive for HIV—the vast majority male—this was a critical breakthrough, Madani said.
“The scientific interactions were quite positive,” she observed. “In addition to this stimulating scientific dialogue, we had an absolute goldmine of people understanding each other and a unique cultural and scientific exchange.”