HIV stigma made an ugly appearance in Greek court recently in a case that proves that prejudice and ignorance is still widespread in Greek society.
According to health organizations “ARSIS” and “Positive Voice,” a landlord sought to evict an HIV-infected tenant from his property, claiming that the tenant did not inform him of his HIV-positive status.
The landlord’s lawyers argued in an Athens court that if he had known, he would not have agreed to the lease “because of his exposure to the risk of transmission of the virus—for example through the use of a shared glass of water.”
In order to document the supposed danger to the landlord and the other tenants of the apartment building, lawyers claimed that if the landlord asked for a glass of water, the HIV virus could be transmitted to himself, ARSIS reported.
Lawyers also noted that the landlord has young children who are also at risk of transmission due to the fact that “they breathe the same air as the HIV-positive tenant.”
Arsis says that the information about the tenant’s HIV-positive status was leaked by the landlord to other tenants of the apartment building, who collected signatures requesting his immediate eviction from the apartment he legally rents.
The organization notes that throughout the court’s session, the presiding judge did not intervene to challenge the totally unscientific arguments of the landlord’s lawyers.
“The presiding judge at the Athens Magistrate’s Court did not intervene at any stage of the process [but] allowed views of racism and ignorance to be heard,” Arsis says.
HIV stigma is extremely abusive
The association for the protection of HIV-positive individuals in Greece, “Positive Voice,” condemned the incident as “extremely abusive and stigmatizing.” It also declared its “full support” to the victim and vowed to “take the necessary actions against those who expressed and reproduced outdated, unfounded, and stigmatizing accusations.”
Incidents like this, the organization says, “highlight the necessity of substantial and modern health education in the school curriculum.”
HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood and from illicit injection drug use or sharing needles. It may be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you develop AIDS.
There’s no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can control the infection and prevent progression of the disease. Antiviral treatments for HIV have reduced AIDS deaths worldwide, and international organizations are working to increase the availability of prevention measures and treatment in resource-impoverished countries.
HIV is not spread by air or water nor by mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects. Saliva, tears, sweat, feces, or urine that is not mixed with the blood of a person with HIV cannot transmit the disease.