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HIV on the Rise in Recession-Hit Greece

According to the National School of Public Health, the recession has caused a severe trauma to public health expenditures, falling by 36% this year.  Including both the government and private individuals, the country spent around 25 billion euros, or roughly 10 percent of GDP, on both public and private health in 2010; in 2011 that will be 16 billion. Just around 10 billion euros are being spent on the public health sector.
These low-cost policies have resulted in the rise of HIV incidence, especially among heroin addicts and prostitutes. HIV victims claim that clean needles, heroin substitutes and anti-retroviral treatments are harder to come by.
In the first five months of 2010, Greece had 255 new HIV cases. Over the same period this year, there were 384 new cases—an increase of more than 50 percent. The Hellenic Center predicts the rate of increase will rise to 60 percent by the end of 2011. By comparison in the United States, cases are increasing by around 7 percent annually.
Nikos Dedes, an adviser to the HIV Committee at the World Health Organization (WHO), says that while most HIV cases in Greece are still transmitted through unprotected homosexual sex, the risks through heterosexual sex are rising.
“The HIV situation in Greece is like a dry forest in summer which has just been hit with a gust of wind,” says Dedes, who is also head of Positive Voice, a Greek NGO set up to combat the spread of HIV. “It could go up in flames any minute”.
Recent surveys revealed that suicides are 40% more than last year, while Greeks are using 35% more anti-depressant pills than they did five years ago.

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