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A DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCE OF CRISIS: THE OUTBREAK OF HIV IN GREECE

 

The connection between economic crisis and health may sometimes be ambiguous. People drink less because they save on alcoholImageor they drink more because there are more unemployed? Life expectancy increases because of saving in car expenses, but people eat worse because junk food is cheaper… but there are some outcomes that are not confused at all, and here there is an example.

Greece was particularly hit by the crisis: since 2008 austerity measures have been being implemented and Health Ministry has not been spared (Graph 1).

There was a drastic reduction in financing of anti-drug policies: for instance one of the main actor in Athens- National Organization Against Drugs (OKANA) – passed from a budget of 40 million in 2011 to 18 in 2012. Two negative consequences of the crisis reciprocally enforced. Drug users increased due to the worsening of socio-economic conditions[1] and free distribution of syringes and condoms was cut enhancing the outbreak of HIV among injecting drugs users (IDUs).  

In 2012, in Greece IDUs infected by HIV have been estimated as 487, with a 35-fold increase in two years[2]. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDDA) recognizes the strong correlation between the crisis and the outbreak of new infections.[3] Consumer increased consume of “sisa” a synthetic mainly injected drug approximately 10 times cheaper than other drugs such as smack crack and meth.[4] The link between prostitution and drug addiction, according to the agency, strengthened: it has been estimated that more drug-addicted decide to prostitute in order to pay for a dose.

Now Greek Government reacted with a new campaign against the HIV epidemics: reduction of waiting lists for substitution treatments, new street work programmes, increase in syringe and condoms distribution and number of HIV tests since 2010.

The overall consequences of the temporary reduction of these costs for preventions have been disastrous: two years of apparent savings in health services related to drug-addicted protection, will determine a much higher cost for the system in the next future (lifetime expense for the treatment is estimated as $379,668,[5] being among the most expensive existing treatments). This will be an awful heritance of this European debt crisis.

Francesca


[1] See Galea S. et al. “Social determinants and the health of drug users: socioeconomic status, homelessness, and incarceration”. Public Health Rep. 2002; 117(Suppl 1): S135–S145.

[3] Hiv outbreak among injecting drug users in Greece, 15/11/12 EMCDDA available at http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/ad-hoc/2012/greece-hiv-update

[4] EMCDDA–Europol 2011 Annual Report on the implementation of Council Decision 2005/387/JHA

[5] See Schackman BR, Gebo KA, Walensky RP, et al. The lifetime cost of current human immuno-deficiency virus care in the United States. Medical Care 2006; 44: 990-997.

 

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Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

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