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HIV/AIDS just part of health woes amid Greece's financial crisis

November 11, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Nurse Maria Vatista treats the leg of a Greek drug addict inside a mobile HIV testing van in Omonia square in Athens. The latest available United Nations figures, from 2009, show that 11,000 people, or 0.1 percent of the Greek population, had HIV/AIDS, a third the rate in the United States. But that may be changing. The Hellenic Center predicts the rate of increase will rise to 60 percent by the end of 2011.
Nurse Maria Vatista treats the leg of a Greek drug addict inside a mobile… (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters )

HIV/AIDS rates have climbed steeply in Greece as the country deals with its financial turmoil, a new story by Reuters reports.

"Spending by Greeks on health is falling 36 percent this year, according to the National School of Public Health," the story points out. The effects of such cost cutting, it says, are "most visible on the edges of society. Heroin use and prostitution are up. Drug addicts and illegal immigrants with HIV say clean needles, heroin substitutes and antiretroviral treatments are harder to come by. The pace of HIV infection is surging."

HIV infections, which are predicted to rise 52% in 2011 over 2010, are part of a larger problem, according to a correspondence article published by the medical journal the Lancet last month. Among the concerns:

  • The number of patients admitted to public hospitals rose 24% in 2010 compared with 2009, and suicides rose 17% from 2007 to 2009.
  • The number of people who were able to get sickness benefits plummeted 40% from 2007 to 2009, probably because of budget cuts.
  • There's some evidence that a few people even infected themselves with HIV on purpose in an effort to qualify for benefits.

It's a grim picture. You can read the whole piece here.

"In an effort to finance debts, ordinary people are paying the ultimate price: losing access to care and preventive services, facing higher risks of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and in the worst cases losing their lives," the authors write.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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