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HIV is spreading most rapidly among drug addicts in Greece

28 May 2013 / 19:05:21  GRReporter
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Greece is among the countries that rank first as regards the number of drug users who have been recently infected with HIV as shown by the annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). The number of people infected with Hepatitis C, which mainly affects people who use hard drugs, has significantly increased as well.

"In 2011, the early warning system reported epidemic outbreaks of HIV in Greece and Romania, which triggered swift responses in both countries," reads the Centre’s report. The number of injection drug users who have been recently diagnosed with HIV in Greece has increased from 19 cases per year for the period to 2010 to 241 cases in 2011. "The high sickness rates of AIDS may mean that many injection drug users infected with HIV have not been treated with the HAART therapy early enough after the infection in order for them to derive maximum benefit from the treatment," note the observers.

In response to the epidemic outbreaks, Greece had significantly improved the programmes supplying needles and syringes as well as the capacity for the treatment of drug addiction. By December 2011, 22 new units for replacement therapy had been established as stated by the observers.
Approximately 80% of drug overdose deaths reported in Europe are in men. In the majority of countries, the average age of the persons who died of heroin overdose is about 35 years. Although the trend of drug overdose deaths has declined, the mortality rate in drug addicts remains high mainly due to health complications and diseases associated with the use of drugs.

In the period from 2005 to 2010, the number of cases of HCV infections among injection drug users had decreased in most countries of Europe. Only five countries reported an increase in the number of cases of Hepatitis C, namely Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Romania. Like HIV carriers, the people infected with HCV may not show symptoms for years and may not understand that they have Hepatitis C if they are not examined. According to the data, up to 80% of the people infected with Hepatitis do not know that they suffer from Hepatitis.

The report on emergency risk assessment indicates that there is a probability of such epidemic outbreaks occurring in some other European Union countries following the increase in the number of reported infections with Hepatitis C virus (which is an indicator of an increased risk associated with injecting) and the insufficient coverage of HIV prevention services.

Across Europe, the average length of the waiting period before a drug addict is admitted for treatment is about two weeks. However, there may be significant discrepancies in the national average data on the waiting period in individual countries. The report states that the waiting periods in Athens and Thessaloniki can be as long as three years due to the limited capacity of the treatment centres. The waiting periods before a person is admitted for detoxification and treatment were shorter in other Greek cities in 2010 as stated by the report.

In Bulgaria, amphetamines remain the most widespread drug. In the period 2005-2011, the levels of distribution and use were lower than 3% in all countries reporting to the European centre with the exception of one country. However, an increase of 1 % in the use of amphetamines by young people has been reported in Bulgaria over the past year. "Generally, minor changes in the levels of experimentation with amphetamines and ecstasy by students aged 15 to 16 years have been observed," reads the report on Bulgaria.

At least 85 million Europeans, or one quarter of the population of the continent, admit that they have used drugs at least once in their lives. It is estimated that in 2011 alone around 1.2 million people received treatment for illicit drug use. People addicted to heroin form the largest group of those undergoing treatment.

The number of cases of drug overdose deaths (80%) reported in Europe is higher in men but the ratio varies between the countries. The number of drug overdose deaths in men is higher in southern countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Turkey whereas in the member states that joined the European Union after 2004, the number of death cases due to drugs are mainly in men and younger people.

In most countries, the average age of the people who died from heroin overdose was about 35 years and it is increasing in many countries. "This probably means stabilization or a decrease in the number of young heroin users and an increase in the average age of the group of problematic drug users," states the report.


Tags: SocietyDrugsHIVAIDSHepatitis CGreeceBulgariaHeroin
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