Monday, December 3, 2012

HIV developing in Athens

HIV developing in Athens

Athens recorded an alarming increase of new HIV infections, especially among intravenous drug users, health authorities warned Friday, as Greece struggles with a prolonged financial crisis in the financing of health care and drug treatment programs have been reduced, the Associated Press reports.

While there were around 10-14 new HIV infections per year among drug users in Athens from 2008 to 2010, that number soared to 206 new cases last year and 487 new cases until October of this year - an increase of 15 times and 35 times, respectively, officials said.
"There is no doubt that we have a large fast growing epidemic in Athens," said Angelos Hatzakis Professor at the University of epidemiology and preventive medicine in Athens.
A total of 1,049 new cases of HIV infection were recorded in Greece in the first 10 months of this year, including 487 drug users. Among others, 256 are male homosexuals, while 108 were infected with the virus through heterosexual intercourse, figures show.
"One of the reasons is the financial crisis," said Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control / ECDC / Marc Sprenger. "There are many people who are vulnerable, marginalized" and using drugs.
They turn to cheaper drugs and inject them instead of smoking them to get the maximum effect from a smaller amount, officials said.
"We are very worried," said Sprenger. "What we see now is that growth, and if we do not pay serious attention to this work in the future will become a huge burden."
Greece is hit by a financial crisis in late 2009, he left the country to experience a sixth year of deep recession and a quarter of its workforce unemployed. To remain solvent, the country relies on international rescue loans from other European countries that also use the euro and the International Monetary Fund, notes AP.
But instead, the Greek government has imposed several rounds of spending cuts and tax hikes in an effort to reform the economy and reduce the country's huge debt. The cuts have affected health care costs, many hospitals reported lack basic materials, while charities dealing with drug users and persons with HIV also are struggling to find funds.
One of the main ways to prevent the spread of the virus that causes AIDS among drug users is the free distribution of needles, clean, officials said, and programs in this regard in Greece were able to increase the number of needles distributed it to 40 up to about 50-60 per dependent per year. But the actual number required for these programs to be effective, officials said ECDC is about 200 per drug per year.
"The cost of prevention to avoid HIV infection is significantly lower than to treat those who become infected," remarks Sprenger

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