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The number of HIV positive sex workers has already reached eighteen. Human rights organizations speak of a witch-hunt

04 May 2012 / 19:05:39  GRReporter
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Victoria Mindova

The number of HIV positive women in Greece arrested for illegal sex work has reached 18. 16 of them have been detained and charged with intentionally inflicting bodily harm on an unknown number of people. Feminist associations and non-government organizations defined the disclosure of the identity of HIV positive sex workers in Greece as a witch-hunt. The Association for Social and Political Rights invited members of various voluntary and political organizations opposing the ostentation of the police action to a joint press conference to express their disagreement with what is happening.

The health culture of the state authorities themselves, which have undertaken to "clear up the health bomb" is dubious, said Tasia Christodoupoulou. She is the counsel for one of the accused girls and she gave a detailed description of how the representatives of the judicial and executive power had treated the arrested. Christodoupoulou explained that the police officers who were responsible for the transportation of the accused wore gloves, and the women were required to wear surgical facemasks.

"This is a symbol of public ignorance, which leads to prejudices and social isolation. None of these precautions can prevent someone from being infected by AIDS and yet it seems to be an apparent prevention," said the lawyer. She criticized the role of the centre for infectious diseases control. The investigation revealed that members of the centre had made the women sign a document that they knew of their illness, but were still offering sensual services. "None of the arrested woman is a sex worker by profession. These are drug addicted women, many of them are in very poor physical and mental condition; they are homeless and ready to do anything to have their dose."

To strengthen her argument that the action taken was more ostentatious than effective Christodoupoulou stressed that the brothel, where Tatiana Buktoiarova was found was located near the local police department in St. Panteleimon. "Why were owners of the brothel where Tatiana was found not indicted? Why were her pimps not announced and not held responsible?" the lawyer asked rhetorically.

"What should really worry us is the lack of a unified education system for sexual education from the time of school. Only thus can we create citizens who will show commitment to themselves and their partners," said the head of ACT UP, an organization for AIDS awareness in Greece. He was clear that the clear-up made is not intended to really solve the problem of illegal prostitution and contagious diseases in Greece. According to him, the political tandem Chrysochoidis and Loverdos (the Ministers of Interior and Health respectively) are relying on cheap tricks to show the electorate that they are taking measures against illegal immigration and rampant petty crime.

"This electoral stunt acted like a boomerang on them," said Sissy Vouvou, a member of the feminist initiative fighting violence against women. She stressed that the campaign of capturing the working girls was planned as a continuation of the clear-up of foreigners in the centre of Athens. To the surprise of the authorities, the majority of them were local Greek girls. This was not in line with their plans to make illegal immigration a major cause of widespread crime, Vouvou noted.

The women’s lives and stories became a subject of serious speculation from various media. The web version of Proto thema published an article entitled "The terrible story of a sex worker." It tells about the destiny of one of the two Bulgarians arrested (Snezhana) and reveals the inhuman torture that turned a 13-year-old raped child into the shadow of the woman she is today. The story, however, is full of serious discrepancies. The edition itself underlines that it used different sources of information on the Internet and does not claim authenticity. In the end, whatever had brought the arrested HIV positive women to the state in which they are known in society, the burden of publicity of their tragedy has become much greater. This is what the sister of one of the detained Greek women told the activists and journalists:

"I would like to tell you that not just the women are victims. I am the sister of one of the dishonoued women and the blow is upon the whole family. She has been a drug addict for many years now. Police know where my sister lives and where she finds her dose much better than I do. I just want an answer. Who is the greater criminal? Whoever is caught in the trap of drugs and will do anything or the one that is ready to exploit the people who have no choice?"

The data of the centre for infectious diseases control show that more than half of the men who visit brothels are married or have a serious relationship. Many of them used the services of the girls without taking protective measures at least once. The majority of the visitors are aged between 35-45 years. The number of phone calls made by clients of the illegal brothel, where the first HIV positive sex worker was found during the police action, exceeded four thousand. After giving publicity to the spread of AIDS, voluntary testing has increased, said doctors from the mobile medical units of the Ministry of Health. From September 2011 to date, 1180 people underwent rapid tests at the mobile medical units and 85 of them proved to be HIV positive.

Tags: Crime newsSex workersHIV positiveAIDSGreece
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