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Greece continues to discriminate against HIV positive women

01 December 2014 / 21:12:14  GRReporter
2509 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Greece marked this year's World AIDS Day in the fight against the virus that causes the disease in the most tragic way. Intentionally or not, one of the HIV positive women who were arrested in 2012 and whose photos and personal data were disseminated in the media committed suicide.

"The end of Katerina came two years after her social death in May 2012 when unwittingly she became the "main character" of one of the blackest pages in the history of the Greek welfare state. The story is familiar.

The marginalized women who were in an extremely difficult situation were subject to testing for HIV/AIDS without their consent and in the presence of police. Then subsequently they were declared a "bomb" threatening the Greek family and society, they were arrested and their names and photos turned into media headlines. Two years later these women were acquitted by justice but they will always bear the stigma and trauma of their disgrace", states the appeal of the Greek Association for Human Rights, which unite a number of non-governmental organizations and psychiatric hospitals.

They warn that despite the promises, the Greek government has not withdrawn the controversial order under which the women were arrested and disgraced in plain sight of society. "We urge the government to abolish the ordinance that criminalises the disease, violates medical confidentiality and human rights, and undermines the trust of those people who need assistance in health institutions," states the text.

Today's situation of the dissemination of AIDS in Greece was presented at a press conference organized by non-governmental organization Praksis, "Positive Voice" and "The Centre for Life". According to director of the Hellenic Centre for Control and Prevention of Infectious Diseases Jenny Kremastinou, the coordinated efforts of state institutions and non-governmental organizations have yielded results in conjunction with the partial interruption of the boom of infections among intravenous drug addicts, which was recorded in 2012. The data of the Centre show that in 2013 the number of new registered cases was 293 whereas the relevant number reported from January to October 2014 was 84. At the same time, HIV continues to disseminate among the group of men who have sex with men. Last year, the number of cases among them was 290 whereas in the period January - October 2014 the number of new infections reported was 281.

Director of the organization "Centre for Life" Nikos Stergiou presented the results of the recent meeting on HIV/AIDS that had taken place in Rome within the context of the Italian Presidency of the European Union. "AIDS continues to be the second cause of mortality in the world, and the only way of transmission of the virus, which has been effectively reduced, is the transmission from mothers to newborns." According to Stergiou, the reduction of cases of transmission among other groups, including of men who have sex with men, illegal immigrants, prisoners and workers in the sex industry is minimal.

At the same time, the rate of virus carriers who do not know that they are infected continues to be high, varying from 30% to 50%. According to Nikos Stergiou, while in the European Union the situation is somewhat under control, despite the fact that the differences between the countries remain large, in Eastern Europe and Central Asia there has been a significant increase in the dissemination of HIV. "This is due to the fact that these countries do not have a strategy to eliminate the discrimination against HIV-positive people from society and institutions, and to prevent it."

"However, by taking advantage of the present experience and taking the right steps, in Europe we can say goodbye to AIDS by 2030," he said in conclusion.

Marianella Kloka from non-governmental organization Praksis stressed that the appointment of specialist staff in infection wards and the creation of centres where HIV-positive addicts can be rendered all the services they need would significantly solve the problem as regards the dissemination of HIV among them. She pointed out that bureaucracy often deprives this category of HIV positive people of help and added, "The Ministry of Health should give priority to the needs of the people, respect their rights and protect public health."

"The access to fast and anonymous diagnosis is the key to breaking the dissemination of HIV among the most affected group, namely that of men who have sex with men," stated chairman of non-governmental organization "Positive Voice" Nikos Dedes. He said that in recent years there has been a sharp increase in the cases of transmission of the virus whereas the rate of late diagnosis throughout Europe is high.

The participants in the press conference emphasized that the public hospitals in Greece continue to allocate the medicines for antiretroviral therapy despite the difficulties posed by the economic crisis.

According to the Centre for Control and Prevention of Infectious Diseases, the number of Greeks, HIV carriers, is 15,500 whereas another 6,800 are undergoing an antiretroviral therapy.

You can read here the GRReporter interview with author of the documentary "Ruins" Zoe Mavroudi, which presents the story of the 31 arrested women, drug addicts.

Tags: SocietyHIVAIDSTransmission of the virusHIV positive drug addictsNon-governmental organizations
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