Greece Reinstates Forced HIV Testing

Greece's health minister has reinstated a draconian measure that allows mandatory HIV testing, detention, and even eviction.

BY David Artavia

July 22 2013 3:33 PM ET

Adonis Georgladis, Greece's Health Minister, has introduced a law that makes forced HIV testing and eviction of HIV-positive people commonplace in the country.

Health minister Adonis Georgladis has reinstated Public Health Decree 39A, a 2012 measure that allows police to detain people suspected of being HIV positive and force them to be tested, according the Greek news outlet ENET. The measure also urges landlords to evict tenants who are HIV-positive (as a public health threat).

In April 2012, the measure was the catalyst for the forced testing of hundreds of women. The 17 that were discovered to be HIV positive were splashed across media outlets, with their personal information and photographs published for the world to see. They were characterized by police as "prostitutes" despite the fact that no evidence was ever provided to back up the accusations. After the women were detained for months, the regulation was repealed and they were sent home.

Now that same measure is being implemented again.

Greece has been seen as increasingly fearful of people with HIV. Rates of the virus have risen over 200% since 2011, most likely due to increased drug abuse and rising unemployment among young adults, which is now over 20%. According to the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV infections among injecting drug users has doubled from 206 to 487 since 2011. At the same time, HIV prevention budgets have taken a major cut, from 35 million Euros in 2010 to 20 million last year.

Today, that HIV hysteria is growing, say activists, in part because with austerity cuts many Greeks are one step away from extreme poverty, most experiencing it for the very first time in their lives. The homeless population is growing with the numbers gathering in central squares increasing daily. Despite being one of the most gay-friendly countries in Europe, the backlash against people with HIV has been alarming for visitors and natives alike.

With the measure Georgladis reintroduced, anyone can be forced to be tested with minimal suspicion by the police. If tested positive, the consequences can mean the loss of your job and release of personal information to the media. Additionally, according to the measure's lanuguage, a positive person "should be evicted from their homes, without any alternative being offered."

The humanitarian group Doctors of the World said in a statement, "The Greek Health Minister is clearly violating basic human rights and human dignity under the guise of 'protecting the community from contagious diseases'. Doctors of the World asks the Greek government to focus on the bigger public health problems, such as children’s universal right to immunization and the need for this right to be implemented, something the government is no longer able to guarantee. We also call on all health professionals to refuse to conduct mandatory testing."
Tags: Testing

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