HIV France

Why Iran doesn't trust French medical services: The story behind contaminated blood

In his televised speech on the occasion of the uprising by the people of Qom, Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, discussed the issue of obtaining the Corona vaccine needed by the Islamic Republic and declared that importing the American, English and French vaccines to the country is forbidden. In this op-ed, examines the reasons behind the Iranians’ and the Leader’s distrust of the US and some European countries.

In his televised speech on January 8, 2021, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “I do not really trust them (the US and UK governments). Sometimes, they might want to test [the vaccine] on other nations to see if it works or not.”

He added: “Of course, I do not trust the French either. The reason is that they have a history of giving us contaminated blood products. Of course, if officials wish to obtain vaccines from other places – from safe places – it will be alright.”

The question that comes to mind is: What is the truth behind the contaminated blood products [l’affaire du sang contaminé] and what role did France play in it, making the Leader of the Islamic Revolution pessimistic about that country?

The issue was first revealed by a journalist named Anne-Marie Casteret, who was also a physician, in April, 1991. She published an article in the Weekly “L’Evénement du jeudi”, announcing that Centre National du Transfusion Sanguine had exported HIV-tainted blood products to other countries on purpose and with full knowledge of the fact. She also wrote a book titled “L’Affaire du Sang” in 1992[1] and raised many other discussions in this regard in subsequent years[2].

The problem occurred when many French drug addicts – in particular in Paris – visited blood donation centers with the purpose of receiving free sandwiches and coffee. Some of them had contracted AIDS and the failure to closely examine their blood samples and also the competition between different companies to receive more blood as soon as possible and to produce blood products aggravated the issue[3]. Another problem was that if a blood donor was suffering from a blood disease such as hepatitis, he could have contaminated all blood products obtained from clotting concentrate groups[4].

One of the active companies in producing and exporting French contaminated blood products was Institut Mérieux, which had exported contaminated blood concentrates to countries such as Germany, Italy, Argentina, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Greece as well as for domestic use in France. They were destined to be used by hemophilia patients.

On the basis of a study, the above-mentioned crime was committed in the years 1984-1985 and it led to tens of thousands of people being infected with HIV and hepatitis-C in different parts of the world. That fatal error led to the infection of 4700 people in France with the HIV virus, which is the main factor leading to the fatal disease known as AIDS. More than 300 out of those individuals lost their lives[5].

Between 1983-1985, the Centre National de la Transfusion sanguine distributed HIV-tainted blood products among hemophilia patients while it had full knowledge of the fact. Although on November 22, 1984, the French government acknowledged that the products were dangerous, Institut Mérieux continued to export them to countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya and Argentina until late 1985[6].

During the trial of senior managers in Centre National de Transfusion Sanguine in 1993, it was claimed that they as well as high-ranking politicians in the French government were not aware of the risk not to examine the blood products and that they had not stopped conducting necessary research on identifying the HIV virus for the sake of financial considerations.

However, the documents published by Anne-Marie Casteret and also the French publication “Libération” showed that those claims were not true. One of the documents is a letter published on January 14, 1985, in which François Gros, the scientific advisor to Laurent Fabius, wrote: “Not only does the AIDS virus infect risk groups, but it can also infect car accident victims and patients undergoing surgery or receiving blood products.”

On the basis of those documents, Laurent Fabius, the Prime Minister during the presidency of François Mitterrand; Edmund Hervé, his Minister of Health; and Georgina Dufoix, his Minister of Social Affairs and National Solidarity, were accused of manslaughter because all of them were aware of the risk of not testing blood products that were suspected of being contaminated. Although they had received such recommendations from other places, they cancelled laboratory tests and sent the blood products into the market without ensuring their safety to gain more financial benefit and profit. And then after the disclosure of this matter, the judge only sentenced those accused of second and third-degree charges to two to four-year short and suspended sentences of imprisonment. [7]. The interesting point is that despite the fact that Laurent Fabius, his Minister of Social Affairs, and his Minister of Health had all been brought to trial in 1999, the first two were acquitted of all charges.[8] Only Edmund Hervé, the Minister of Health, was convicted of “involuntary homicide, but exempt from punishment”![9].

In the 1980s, the Iranian Ministry of Health and the Blood Transfer Institution of Iran did not have the possibility to conduct tests on the French HIV-tainted blood products[10] due to the oppressive sanctions imposed by westerners, the problems resulting from the imposed war and the difficulty to buy blood products. That was why the French contaminated products were injected into hemophilia patients as a result of which certain patients contracted AIDS in the late 1980s[11].

On the basis of the existing data in Iran, in the 1980s, at least 193 individuals contracted AIDS due to the injection of infected French blood products and only less than 20 among them survived[12]. The last piece of research conducted in 1393 shows that at least 1800 Iranians were infected with hepatitis and AIDS as a result of receiving contaminated blood products from France[13]. The problems created by western countries – in particular the US – in the area of selling HIV identification kits to Iran in the 1990s prevented Iran from carefully and immediately identifying the infected patients and from gathering reliable data[14].

Dr. Ahmad Qavidel, the former head of the Hemophilia Center of Iran stated: “A formal complaint regarding the contaminated blood products, related to imported products from France in the years between 1983 and 1985, was lodged, and after hearing about the sufferings of a father of two hemophilia patients, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution issued an edict to the judiciary branch ordering it to attend to the matter.”

The Blood Transfer Institution of Iran filed a complaint against the French Mérieux Institut and after that, the Ministry of Health and the President’s Office pursued the matter. When it was proved that the French company had committed wrongdoings in producing healthy blood products, the other countries tried to receive compensation from the company and they managed to do so. However, Iran is the only country that is yet to receive its compensation due to the French government’s lack of cooperation[15].

He added: “The main reason behind the spread of AIDS in Iran was the importation of contaminated blood products from France to Iran. The patients were not aware of contracting the virus. Therefore, they got married and spread that deadly virus in Iran.[16]

In general, since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, by offering political asylum to the terrorist opponents of the Islamic Republic – such as the royalists and the MEK – offering wholehearted support to Saddam Hussein during the imposed war against Iran, the deliberate exportation of HIV-tainted blood products to Iran, adopting a hostile position during the nuclear negotiations between 5+1 and Iran and finally, advocating the oppressive sanctions imposed against the people of Iran and actively participating in their implementation, the French government has shown that it seriously insists on showing enmity against the Islamic Republic and its civilians. It is evident that in such circumstances, one cannot trust France for the purchase of the Corona vaccine.


[1]Casteret, Anne-Marie (1992). L'affaire du sang (French). Paris: Éditions La Découverte. ISBN 2707121150.  

[2] Jean Sanitas (1994). Le sang et le SIDA: une enquête critique sur l'affaire du sang contaminé et le scandale des transfusions sanguines. L'Harmattan. ISBN 2-7384-3085-6.



[5] Hagen, Piet (1993). Blood Transfusion in Europe: A "White Paper", Volume 68. p. 26. ISBN 9287123764.













  • France
  • HIV
  • vaccines