Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Athens HIV/Aids cases soar as Greece cracks down on urban vulnerable

by Lizzy Davies

Guardian

June 12, 2012

The head of Médecins sans Frontières Greece has accused the Athens authorities of pursuing a wrong and dangerous public health strategy that ignores the root causes of disease outbreaks and penalises those most at risk.

Reveka Papadopoulou, the general director of the medical aid charity's Greek branch, said cases of HIV/Aids in the city centre had gone up last year by 1,450% on 2010's figures. MSF attributed the rise largely to the suspension of a needle exchange programme for the capital's intravenous drug users.

The reduction of public schemes designed to help the most vulnerable on the capital's streets had been compounded, Papadopoulou said, by a crackdown on illegal immigrants and other groups regarded by the authorities as a threat to public health.

"What that generates first of all is against any medical ethics. Secondly it is dangerous for public health," she told the Guardian. "You cannot protect public health by penalising, by using this policing approach on the ones that you consider possible transmitters of the disease."

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