More than 300 people are accusing local Iranian medical officials of infecting them with the HIV virus, according to Iranian media sources.
The residents, located in the village of Chenar Mahmoud and the towns of Lordegan, Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari, say adults and children contracted HIV from local medical centers and health clinics due to unsanitary medical practices, including from contaminated syringes used by the local health organizations during a widespread test for diabetes two months prior.
There are similar unconfirmed reports by individuals in neighboring villages.
On Saturday, large groups of the affected townspeople, along with their loved ones and supporters, stormed the office of the Friday Prayer Imam and set it ablaze. Another group protested in front of the governor’s building in the province, demanding that the courts investigate the case.
Radio Farda and the Mehr-news agency (MNA) both reported on the incidents.
“A limited number of ‘opportunists’ attempted to create disruption and sedition outside the Governor’s building, but failed,” MNA reported about the incident in front of the governor’s office.
The protests began last Wednesday, and have been well documented across social media. Posts show protesters chanting anti-Iranian slogans, including those relating to the dismay of the Islamic Republic’s support of the Palestinian people and designated terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
“No to Gaza, No to Lebanon, I Sacrifice my Life for Iran,” the protesters chanted.
Many of these gathering have been dispersed by security forces, sometimes using of tear gas.
Local authorities denied the allegations of spreading the virus to the townspeople, claiming that HIV had been present in the villages for quite some time before the tests took place. In addition, the Islamic Republic’s health minister sent a letter to the justice minister, claiming the previous and relevant presence of HIV in the area – however, the discretion was meant to respect the “villagers’ honor,” according to Radio Farda.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki said in a statement published by Radio Farda: “The source of the HIV outbreak was contaminated syringes used by drug addicts, as well as people who have ‘unacceptable relations.’ We are going to treat people with HIV for free.”
Behrouz Bonyadi, a member of parliament on the Iranian Health Commission, said the central government is sending a delegation to these provinces to investigate the accusations.
“The people of Chenar Mahmoud are scared,” one villager told Iran Human Rights Monitor, according to Farda. “Many refrain from taking blood tests out of fear of finding out they have been infected. Every family of two or three has become inflicted with the virus. Anyone who has taken the test has turned out to be positive. And no one asks this regime, why do you need to test a nine-year-old kid for cholesterol and blood sugar and infect them with AIDS?”