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Social benefits and disablement pensions for HIV-infected people in Greece cut

02 December 2011 / 14:12:01  GRReporter
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Non-government organizations engaged in the fight against the curse of our era have delivered the dramatic message of people with HIV. The reason for it is the decision of the Greek government to deprive HIV-infected people of social benefits and disablement pensions. From now on, only patients in the final stage of the disease will be entitled to receive such aid.

According to the non-government organizations Praxis and Kendro Zois, people living with HIV are forced to break down in the name of state finances recovery. "Instead of working on a plan to fight AIDS and to eliminate discrimination against carriers of the virus in the country, they are planning their destruction. Even before the economic crisis, disabled persons and people with HIV in particular did not have the support of institutions. There has never been enough political will to implement a unified strategy to fight against AIDS and the social consequences of it. As a result, we have had a surge of new cases of infection in the country, which is the subject of comments at a global level, and increased social problems," state the representatives of the organizations.

According to them, it is improper for a medical committee at the disability certification centre to examine virus carriers, because the doctors involved in it are not specialists in HIV-infected people. Representatives of the organizations indicate that AIDS is a complex and chronic disease with serious consequences. "In assessing the percentage of disability, important factors should be taken into account such as the age and number of years during which a person is HIV-positive, virus-related diseases, side effects of antiretroviral therapy and co-infections. Many HIV positive individuals suffer from depression, often accompanied by suicidal thoughts, psychosocial stress and psychiatric disorders." According to the organizations, these are factors that should also be taken into account. They define social stigmatization and isolation as key conditions to be included in determining the degree of disability.

The great fear of the organizations’ representatives is that many HIV-positive "will stop taking drugs to reach the status of AIDS patients in order to have access to social benefits."

The non-government organization Doctors without Borders has called for help against the continuous reduction of the funds for the treatment of HIV-infected people. They will hold an event in downtown Athens on Saturday to urge the Greek society to support their campaign "Europe! Hands off our medicine."

According to Doctors without Borders, data from a study suggest that if a person starts a treatment against the AIDS virus in good time, the possibility of infecting other people falls by 96%. In June this year, governments promised that the number of people who would begin a therapy against AIDS will reach 15 million by 2015. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has agreed to provide half of the funds to achieve this goal. However, according to Doctors without Borders, the funding is insufficient and for the first time since its establishment in 2002, the Global Fund is under financial pressure.

"Never before in the ten years during which we have been treating people living with HIV have we been so close to such a promising point for the reduction of this epidemic," said Tido von Saint-Angerer, director of the campaign for access to essential medicines at Doctors without Borders. "Governments of the most affected countries want to act in a scientific way to grab the opportunity to completely change what is happening today with the AIDS epidemic. But that means nothing without the resources that would help its implementation," he added.

Doctors without Borders called the Global Fund to not delay in order not to reduce or discontinue the new round of funding, and donating countries - to secure the necessary funds.

"We are now in the absurd situation in which everything is leading us to the suppression of the spread of HIV, whereas the crucial issue of funding is pulling us in exactly the opposite direction," said Shelah Woods, programme manager in the rural areas in Malawi at Doctors without Borders. "We must act quickly to save as many lives as possible and to avoid going back, because the countries cannot cope with this problem unaided."

Tags: SocietyAIDSHIV-infected peopleSocial benefitsDisablement pensionsTherapyMedicinesInfectionEpidemic
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