European Crisis: Half of HIV Infections in Greece Are Self-Inflicted

Greece protest 2-13-2012Fox Business – by Matt Egan

A recent World Health Organization report paints an alarming picture regarding the health implications of Europe’s economic crisis, including how some Greek citizens are infecting themselves with HIV in order to receive 700 euros in government benefits.

The findings highlight how startling levels of unemployment and severe, mandated government cutbacks are trickling down to European citizens.  

The September WHO report concludes that the economic crisis that began in 2008 has “exacerbated” health problems in Europe and “exposed stark social and economic inequities within and between countries.”

Greece has been among Europe’s hardest-hit, with its debt crisis causing the country’s economy to shrink and nearly knocking it out of the euro zone entirely.

According to the WHO report, suicides soared by 17% in Greece between 2007 and 2009 and then another 25% in 2010. As the crisis deepened in the first half of 2011, suicide attempts surged 40%.

Moreover, the WHO report said HIV rates have risen “significantly” and estimates that about half of new HIV infections are self-inflicted “to enable people to receive benefits of 700 euros per month and faster admission” to drug-substitution programs.

The WHO report cited an October 2011 report from The Lancet, which cited a separate 2011 report by the University Mental Health Research Institute. The UMHRI report noted “the well-founded suspicion” that some problem drug users “are intentionally infected with HIV, because of the benefit that are entitled to (approximately 1,400 euros every two months).”

The UMHRI authors said this may also be linked to the fact they will be able to receive quicker access to drug-substitution programs that can have waiting lists of three to four years.

Greece’s unemployment rate stood at an alarming level of 26.9% as of September, tops in the euro zone. After Spain, which had a 26% unemployment rate, the next closest country is Portugal at 16.3%, according to FactSet Research.

Athens has also been forced to take heavy budget cuts as it seeks to get its deficit under control and maintain support from the European Central Bank.

According to the WHO report, health care access has declined due to a 40% cut in hospital budgets. An estimated 26,000 public health workers, including 9,100 doctors, are expected to lose their jobs.

The WHO said an analysis of the EU survey of income and living conditions in Greece found a 15% increase between 2007 and 2009 of the likelihood of people reporting that they did not go to a doctor or dentist despite feeling it was necessary.

“These adverse trends in Greece pose a warning to other countries undergoing significant fiscal austerity, including Spain, Ireland and Italy. It also suggests that ways need to be found for cash-strapped governments to consolidate finances without undermining much-needed investments in health,” the report said.


Follow Matt Egan on Twitter @MattMEgan5

One thought on “European Crisis: Half of HIV Infections in Greece Are Self-Inflicted

  1. I would be robbing banks if things were that desperate. Infecting yourself with HIV is absolutely f*****g insane behaviour. I can sort of understand those that do it under the auspices of being either ‘bug chasers’ or ‘gift givers’ because in my mind they are already certifiable.
    If you aren’t sure what those two terms mean Google them you will be shocked,

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