The World Health Organization (WHO) has claimed that the Greek economic crisis has led desperate Greeks to self-infect themselves with HIV.
It’s another sad blow to the economically devastated nation. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, Greece has seen their murder rate double. Suicides have risen 45 percent. Prostitution has increased 150 percent. Theft is up 200 percent.
The shocking HIV claim comes from a recent WHO report that states that approximately half of all new HIV infections in Greece were caused by people self-infecting themselves with the deadly disease.
Activists and health officials have blamed the Greek economic crisis for the desperation that has spread through the masses. Rates of new infections have shot up over recent years as Greeks have been choosing to give themselves the HIV virus. From 2010 to 2011, the number of new HIV infections increased by 57 percent.
The shocking news was released in the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe’s review on “social determinants and the health divide” in their region. The final report was prepared by the UCL Institute of Health Equity.
Why does the WHO believe that these Greeks choose to get HIV? According to their recently released report on European health, the Greek patients were motivated, in part, by the financial benefits. In Greece, people infected with HIV receive €700 per month in benefits in addition to drug assistance.
If this sounds unbelievably extreme that’s because it is. And, while it is becoming increasing common, it is still a very small and particular group of people who are choosing to have HIV. The majority of new HIV infections are being found amongst intravenous drug users (IDUs).
The new infection rate among IDUs has sprung up from 16 cases per year to 190 cases in 2011. Some IUDs have cited access to drug substitution programs as their reason for choosing to infect themselves with HIV. Having an HIV infection rushes them through the three year waiting period that is standard in Greek drug substation programs.
In July 2013, in response to the alarming increase in HIV cases, the Greek Health Minister made an announcement that HIV testing would become compulsory. The government will now be enforcing HIV testing on prostitutes, drug users, and illegal immigrants.
Greek officials have been shocked by this dramatic increase in HIV. There had previously been very little change in the number of Europeans infected with HIV since 2004. However, in 2011, Western and Central Europe found another 900.000 infected citizens within their region.
Adding to the surprise, Greece has typically had one of the lower HIV prevalence rates in Europe. With an infection rate of 0.7 percent, Portugal has the highest rate of HIV infection. At 0.4 percent each, Austria, France, Italy and Spain have shared second place.
After approximately 26,000 health care employees lost their jobs and many hospitals have had their budgets nearly cut in half, Greece has struggled to keep up with patient care. HIV/AIDs activists are now hoping to find funding to help them deal with this new Greek crisis.
By Nicci Mende
World Health Organization