HIV Greek infection rumors and nonsense

Timothy Kincaid

November 26th, 2013

H.I.V. rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new H.I.V. infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug substitution programs

So declared the World Health Organization about HIV infections in Greece.

And so trumpeted social conservatives, including radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who declared it to be an evidence of “what the welfare state does to people”.

What it really illustrates is how leaving out a few words, followed by shoddy review, and based on third hand sources can result in meaningless reporting.

The report intended to say

H.I.V. rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new H.I.V. infections being due to needle injection, some of which is deliberate self-infection to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug substitution programs

And even that isn’t really supported by evidence. Rather, the WHO report was relying on a Lancet report from Greece, which itself only reported a “well-founded suspicion that some problem users are intentionally infected with H.I.V., because of the benefit they are entitled to”.

They didn’t actually find a single verified anecdote of anyone deliberately self-infecting. Much like there didn’t ever seem to be any actual cases of real “bug chasers” that were the darlings of anti-gay activists a few years back.

But you know that now that it’s been said, the notion of half of the HIV cases in Greece being deliberate self infection will linger out there in the public subconsious.

John30013

November 27th, 2013

Thanks for this important information, Timothy. I wish you
had written, “According to an article in the Ney York Times, the
report intended to say”, because–as written–it seemed like you
had some special knowledge of the background facts that went into
the report. I was confused until I followed the link and read the
article in the Times.

Darina

November 28th, 2013

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/26/who-apologises-hiv-infections-greece-self-inflicted

And the “news” about Greece is still being spread on the social networks in a Bulgarian translation – it’s especially “interesting” since we are right next to Greece. *sigh*

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