A World Health Organization report asserting that half of the recent HIV cases in Greece were “self-inflicted” so the patients could receive government benefits is now being called into question.
The report on the "health divide" in Europe, released in September, said, “HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission to drug substitution programs.”
The WHO is now backing away from that claim, saying that the line was the result of an editing error. “There is no evidence of people in Greece or anywhere else in Europe deliberately infecting themselves,” WHO spokesman Marti Donoghoe said, according to the New York Times.
As the Times points out, the WHO report was produced by the Institute of Health Equity at University College London, which cited a Lancet study that said a “few” cases of self-inflicted HIV infections had been found, though this has not been confirmed.
While the claim about a wave of self-inflected HIV infections was recanted, the WHO also said HIV infections in economically ravaged Greece increased by 52 percent in 2011, mostly in people who have injected drugs, according to Fox Business. Sharing needles is an efficient form of transmission.
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"The causes for this increase are multifaceted, and WHO welcomes the work of the ad hoc expert group and other entities to improve understanding of them and to recommend appropriate measures to extend the benefits of the comprehensive package of interventions for harm reduction to all people who inject drugs," the U.N. organization said.
The report paints a dire picture of Greek health struggles amid the nation's economic crisis. It finds that suicides increased by 17 percent in Greece between 2007 and 2009, then increased another 25 percent in 2010. Suicide attempts increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. Additionally, the report says that access to health care in Greece has declined due to a 40 percent cut in hospital budgets.
As of September, Greece’s unemployment rate was the highest in the European Union, at 26.9 percent, according to Fox Business.