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Open Access Research

Outcome assessment of a triangular clinic as a harm reduction intervention in Rajaee-Shahr Prison, Iran

Rahim Taghizadeh Asl1, Babak Eshrati2, Colleen Anne Dell3*, Kelli Taylor4, Parviz Afshar5, Mohammad Kamali6 and Ali Mirzazadeh7

Author Affiliations

1 World Health Organization, Tehran, Iran

2 Arak University of Medical Science, Arak, Iran

3 Department of Sociology & School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

4 Faculty of Medicine/Medical School, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

5 Ministry of Welfare, Tehran, Iran

6 Iran University of Medical Science, Tehran, Iran

7 Institute for Health Policy Studies, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, USA

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Harm Reduction Journal 2013, 10:41  doi:10.1186/1477-7517-10-41

Published: 26 December 2013



Transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among incarcerated injection drug users (IDU) is a health epidemic in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Triangular clinics (TCs) were established in prisons as a harm reduction measure to decrease the risk of HIV transmission and other blood-borne infections. The objective of this study was to assess the immediate outcomes of one TC among male IDUs in Iran’s Rajaee-Shahr prison.


This study was conducted in two stages between 2003 and 2005. In the preparatory stage, focus group data was collected to update the prison’s TC education and medical interventions and construct the self-report questionnaire. In stage two, 150 male IDUs were recruited in a closed cohort study design to assess the immediate outcome of the TC. Participants were measured at baseline and followed up to six months to measure their drug use, attitude toward and knowledge of high risk behaviours, serological conversion for HIV, HBV and HCV, and engagement in risky behaviors. The TC outcomes were determined through random urine analysis testing, a self-administered questionnaire and behaviour report cards, and viral infection testing.


The findings of the urine analyses indicated a minimal yet consistent decrease in drug use over the six months. The pre and post- self-administered questionnaire data relayed a modest change in IDU risky behaviours associated with sexual practices; this was greater in comparison to the knowledge and attitude measures. It was determined that age may have a detrimental effect as may viral infections (HIV and HBV) on knowledge, attitude and behavior change. Both education and employment may have a protective effect. Data collected from the self-report behaviour cards similarly showed a modest reduction in high risk practices. At the six month follow-up, only one case became HIV positive, 9 HCV and 17 HBV.


Considering that HIV is concentrated among Iranian prisoners who inject drugs at a high level, the results of this study indicate that TCs are a possible effective intervention. However, many prisoners continued with risky behaviors even if they were participating in harm reduction measures, such as methadone maintenance therapy.

Triangular clinic; Injection drug use; HIV/AIDS; Health belief model