Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a veritable mixed-bag of acknowledgments and modest accolades contrasted with sobering memorials and hard facts. Observance of this day each year marks a way to acknowledge the advances that HIV/AIDS policy activists and health professionals have made around the world as well as to remember the millions who have died from the disease. Events to observe the day sought to raise awareness of the disease and re-iterated the health challenges that still remain.
For many in the international health community, however, yesterday prompted a more personal and bittersweet reflection because it served as a distressing reminder of the ongoing plight of Arash and Kamiar Alaei. Prior to their arrest by Iranian authorities, these renowned and celebrated physicians made great strides in the field of harm reduction in their service to the intravenous drug-using population in Iran. As the second anniversary of their sentencing approaches in late December, PHR continues to call for the pardon and unconditional release of the Alaei brothers. The arrest of both brothers in June 2008 — based on illegitimate and politically motivated charges — and sentencing in January 2009 are travesties of justice that cannot be overlooked at this important time.
PHR joins international NGOs, academic institutions, and medical leaders from across the globe in renewing the call for Arash and Kamiar’s pardon and unconditional release, respectively. Arash and Kamiar are dedicated champions of human rights and with their arrest the international health community sustained a devastating loss in the struggle to combat HIV/AIDS — a loss that cannot be remedied without the brothers’ unconditional release.