Police, prosecutors and representatives of the centre for infectious diseases control continue the inspections of illegal sex workers in Athens. According to recent data, ten Greek women, a Russian woman and a Bulgarian one responded positively to the rapid test for HIV. The twelve women were practicing the ancient craft illegally, the majority of them are drug addicts, and they were working on the street. Following a prosecution decision, the images of HIV positive women continue to be published, provoking serious responses from non-government organizations in Greece.
"Announcing details about the infected does not depend on us, but on the prosecution," said the representative of the centre for infectious diseases control Evangelos Liapis for GRReporter. He is involved in the process of determining the women infected with the deadly virus and would like to distinguish his work from the decisions of the judiciary and executive power. He explained that this type of clear-up in areas inhabited by risk groups will become a daily practice. This has become possible after a health provision entered into force last week, giving the green light to mass inspections.
The debate on whether it is right to exemplary circulate the photographs of HIV positive people has intensified after the police published the photographs of the ten women arrested on Tuesday evening. They clearly show drug addicted women, who were not only working on the street but were also living there. The official version of the reason for publishing the photographs of the captured HIV positive individuals is to alert the public and their clients to seek help at the prevention centres for sexually transmitted diseases.
"If the Greek police and prosecution seek to be truly fair, then they must distribute in the public domain the photographs of all clients of the arrested girls, who enjoyed their services without using condoms. They are a risk group or may already be HIV positive," said Tzanetos Antipas, the chairman of the non-government organization PRAXIS. In his opinion, this is a logical response to the position of the police. They justify the publication of the photographs and the details about the women infected with AIDS, saying, "This will protect the public interest." "Many of their clients are people with families or with permanent relationships. They could also carry the virus but have not been exposed like the captured sex workers." The head of PRAXIS explained that most often, the client takes the decision to enjoy the "services" without the use of a condom, not the women.
Antipas insists that the entire joint action of the police, the prosecution and the centre for infectious diseases control is an electoral stunt. He is clear that the publicity given to the clear-ups and announcing those HIV positive to the public is part of the pre-election strategy of the government to improve its image before the voters in the last days before the vote. Antipas and the non-governmental organization he represents consider the actions of the Greek police and prosecution discriminatory and racist. The best way to protect the public interest is to encourage responsible sexual behaviour from an early age through education and prevention, experts say.
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