Dr. Seyyed Ali Reza Marandi, President of the Academy, Dr. Mohammad Hossein Niknam, Acting Minister for International Affairs of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Fardad Doroudi, UNAIDS Country Coordinator and Dr Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, Head of center for Communicable Disease Control of the Ministry of Health, were among the speakers at the event.
Dr. Marandi began the meeting by welcoming Mr. Lewis to Iran and hoping for fruitful discussions from the meeting. Following the opening remarks, Dr. Niknam referred to the country visit of Mr. Michel Sidibe – UNAIDS Executive Director – in 2010, in which Mr. Sidibe described Iran’s prison-based HIV-related interventions as “evidence-based, and marked by tolerance, pragmatism and compassion”.
While pointing out significant progress made at global level in decreasing number of AIDS-related deaths and newly infected cases, Dr. Niknam described HIV/AIDS as an unfinished job – a challenge that needed to be kept high on the list of priorities for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
In his remarks, Mr. Lewis reaffirmed the successes of the global battle against HIV/AIDS, and encouraged a shift away from the emergency response mode. He called on all partners to “Get to Zero”.
“We need to move away from the emergency response mode – which still characterizes so much of what we do. We now need to focus on the importance of getting to zero. This means: zero infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, zero prejudice and discrimination,” said Mr. Lewis.
Mr. Lewis said that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is now one of the top two regions in the world with a rapid growth in new HIV infections. He noted Iran’s success in countering HIV in a number of areas and suggested that the country’s achievements in reversing the HIV epidemic must now be shared with other countries of the region.
“The voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran is respected because we have seen what Iran can do on HIV in the past several years. There are still many places where there is a great degree of discomfort about openly mentioning a set of evidence-based responses which saves lives. Here in Iran we talk about them quite openly – and we do so on the basis of evidence,” added Mr. Lewis, “this is remarkable and needs to be remarked upon.”
Mr. Lewis concluded his remarks by assuring the participants of the United Nations’ full support to Iran’s response to the HIV/AIDS phenomenon.