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Preventing HIV transmission among Iranian prisoners: Initial support for providing education on the benefits of harm reduction practices

Babak Eshrati1, Rahim Taghizadeh Asl2, Colleen Anne Dell3*, Parviz Afshar4, Peggy Margaret E Millson5, Mohammad Kamali6 and John Weekes7

Author Affiliations

1 Arak University of Medical Science, Arak, Iran

2 United Nations Development Programme, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan, Canada

4 Health and Correction Deputy of Prison Organization, Tehran, Iran

5 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

6 Iran Medical University, Tehran, Iran

7 Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada

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Harm Reduction Journal 2008, 5:21  doi:10.1186/1477-7517-5-21

Published: 9 June 2008



Harm reduction is a health-centred approach that seeks to reduce the health and social harms associated with high-risk behaviors, such as illicit drug use. The objective of this study is to determine the association between the beliefs of a group of adult, male prisoners in Iran about the transmission of HIV and their high-risk practices while in prison.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in 2004. The study population was a random selection of 100 men incarcerated at Rajaei-Shahr prison. The data were collected through a self-administered questionnaire. Focus group discussions were held at the prison to guide the design of the questionnaire. The relationship between components of the Health Belief Model (HBM) and prisoners' risky HIV-related behaviors was examined.


Calculating Pearson's correlation coefficient, a significant, positive association was found between the benefit component of the HBM and prisoners not engaging in HIV high-risk behaviors.


Educational harm reduction initiatives that promote the effectiveness of strategies designed to reduce the risk of HIV transmission may decrease prisoners' high-risk behaviors. This finding provides initial support for the Iran prison system's current offering of HIV/AIDS harm reduction programming and suggests the need to offer increased education about the effectiveness of HIV prevention practices.