Street children are vulnerable to HIV in Tehran, Iran

Prevalence of HIV, HBV and HCV among street and labour children in Tehran, Iran.

Foroughi M, Moayedi-Nia S, Shoghli A, Bayanolhagh S, Sedaghat A, Mohajeri M, Mousavinasab SN, Mohraz M. Sex Transm Infect. 2016 Sep 6. pii: sextrans-2016-052557. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2016-052557. [Epub ahead of print]

Objectives: The existence of street and working children in Iran is undeniable. The precarious conditions of these children (including disrupted family, poverty, high prevalence of crime among relatives, family members and peers) cause social harm and high-risk behaviours, including drug addiction, selling sex or having sex with adolescents or peers. Here we explore the HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C status of street and working children in Tehran.

Methods: One thousand street and labour children, aged 10-18 years, were recruited by using the time-location sampling method, and semistructured questionnaires were used to find demographic information and information on HIV/AIDS-related high-risk sexual behaviours. Blood samples were collected from children, with use of the dried blood sampling method.

Results: 4.5% of children were HIV infected, 1.7% were infected with hepatitis B virus and 2.6% were infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Having parents who used drug, infected with HCV and having experience in trading sex significantly increased the likelihood of getting HIV among the street children of Tehran.

Conclusion: HIV prevalence among street children is much higher than general population (<0.1%), and in fact, the rate of positivity comes close to that among female sex workers in Iran. These findings must be an alarm for HIV policymakers to consider immediate and special interventions for this at-risk group.

Abstract access  [1]

Editor’s notes: Relatively few studies have been published on the prevalence of HIV and other communicable diseases in vulnerable populations in Iran. This paper presents results from a prevalence study among street children in Tehran, Iran. Researchers were able to survey 1000 street children, and children exploited by labour between the ages of 10-18, finding an HIV prevalence of 4.5%. The survey data revealed high rates of physical abuse, drug use, and school dropout, but it is not clear whether any of the children were already aware of their HIV status, or how many had acquired HIV perinatally. These important findings point to the imperative for programmes to address the needs of street children in Tehran, and additional research in other areas within the country where similar issues may be prevalent. 

Asia [5]
Iran (Islamic Republic of) [6]
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