Greece’s other crisis: An HIV outbreak

Greece’s other crisis: An HIV outbreak

As Europe continues to be roiled by the ongoing effects of the debt crisis, another situation is quietly gripping Greece. Reuters reports that the number of new cases of the virus detected in the first five months of this year was 50 percent higher than the same period last year. These include the country’s first-ever cases of mother-child transmissions:

In 2009, the year the baby was born, Greece had detected not a single case of a mother transmitting the AIDS virus to her child, according to the Hellenic Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, a public health agency funded by the Health Ministry. The mother’s infection was apparently missed by a nationwide screening program for pregnant women.

"How was it possible for an HIV-positive child to be born in Greece? That is my question," asked the woman’s social worker, Anna Kavouri, head of social services at The Center for Life, which helps people living with HIV/AIDS. Kavouri is working with the woman to try to find out what happened and what options she may have for legal redress.

With tough austerity already taking a toll on the Greek economy, the social safety nets that many had become used to, including testing for sexually transmitted diseases, are gradually eroding away. Rising poverty has been linked to increases in prostitution and drug use amongst the population. As Reuters noted, the Greek healthcare system is due for a 36 percent budget cut next year, which will undoubtedly reduce the scale and quality of services.