Iran is installing vending machines in Tehran to sell cheap condoms and syringes to drug addicts to prevent the spread of AIDS and hepatitis, an official said on Wednesday.
"Five of these machines which have been made will be installed in five of Tehran city's welfare shelters for addicts," the deputy head of Iran's anti-narcotics organization, Mohammad Reza Jahani, said.
"Condoms, syringes, bandages and plasters will be easily accessible just by inserting a coin. This protects addicts from acquiring AIDS and hepatitis," he added, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
He said that a single 500 rial (five cents) coin is required to purchase the items.
"The machines will be used for a three month trial period and if the scheme is successful then we will upgrade them and increase their distribution to other shelters," he added.
Iranian officials admit the country has a serious drug abuse problem. They normally estimate the number of regular drug users at two million in a country with a population of more than 71 million.
Iran is situated along one of the main trafficking routes for cannabis, heroin, opium and morphine produced in Afghanistan, and designer drugs have also found their way into the Iranian market in recent years.
Out of 2,500 tonnes of narcotics that enter Iran from neighbouring Afghanistan annually, some 700 tonnes are consumed in the country, officials say.
Condoms are freely available in Iranian pharmacies.
The Islamic republic in the 1990s started actively promoting contraception as it encouraged families to have just two children to prevent the country's population growth increasing further.
Iran has tried to change its approach to drug addicts by treating users as "people who need help" rather than throwing them into already overcrowded jails.