Greek Suffers Trauma

Amid a debt crisis, a crippling recession and ugly levels of unemployment, Greece is now struggling with a rise in suicides and an HIV outbreak.

The role of the economic crisis in the rise in human immunodeficiency virus isn’t clear, Greek officials say, but the ability to fight it is hampered by fewer resources.

Greece’s debt troubles have raged for about three years now, prompting its governments to take severe austerity measures that are choking the economy and driving up unemployment, which now stands at 25 per cent. About half of its young people can’t find work, and social unrest is widespread.

Amid these troubles, Reuters reported last week, attempts of suicide climbed to more than 925 last year. By the end of August, this year’s rate was already at 690.

Today, authorities cited the outbreak of HIV in Greece, particularly in Athens, and warned that the economic troubles plaguing the region will hamper prevention across Europe.

“Since 2011, Greece has been experiencing a significant outbreak of HIV among people who inject drugs in Athens,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in a lengthy report.

“In the first eight months of 2012, for the first time the number of new cases reported among people who inject drugs exceeded the number of new cases reported among men who have sex with men. The outbreak among people who inject drugs is likely due to a combination of factors, the most important being low levels of preventive services prior to the outbreak.”

HIV in Greece has been “a pattern of low-level, concentrated epidemic,” the agency said.

Since it was first reported in the 1980s, infections climbed by 2011 to 7.3 per 100,000 people.

“The ongoing HIV outbreak is occurring at a time when Greece is experiencing a severe financial crisis,” the group noted.

“Although the extent to which the financial crisis has contributed to the outbreak is unclear, it is evident that the crisis has a significant social and health impact on the population of Greece. In addition, the response to the HIV outbreak by public authorities and NGOs is being managed in the context of social uncertainty, with exceedingly scarce financial resources.”

Prevention could be hurt in other parts of Europe by the “economic turmoil,” the agency added.

“There is a continuous need to keep public health and preventative services on the agenda even in challenging economic times so that long-term, high-cost burden to the health system can be averted.”

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