A drug addict gives a blood sample on November 25, 2013 in Athens as she gets tested for HIV, in a program launched in August 2012 by the Greek Okana NGO and funded by the European Union. Okana also launched Greece's first ever consumption room, where people addicted to hard drugs can shoot under supervision, which has been running as a pilot project for more than a month and so far has between five and twelve visitors every day. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS        (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

What Exactly Does “Self-Inflicted” HIV Mean?

New study says that large numbers of people in Greece deliberately get HIV to get health benefits faster

[Update: The World Health Organization made a big "editing error." See their correction here.]

There’s the gaydar test in Kuwait and “death panels” in the U.S. Now to the list of head-scratchers from the health world, you can add: ”self-inflicted” HIV.

According to a new health study that surfaced on Twitter and the economics-finance forum Zero Hedge today, about half of recently diagnosed cases of HIV infection in Greece are “self-inflicted.” WHO neglects to define “self-inflicted,” leaving all of us hopelessly confused (and incredibly concerned).

The October report, from the World Health Organization and University of College London’s Institute of Health Equity, says that people deliberately get HIV to “receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug-substitution programs.” Greece’s severe economic crisis has made it much harder to get benefits and get a spot in a drug-rehab program. The authors add: “Prostitution has also risen, probably as a response to economic hardship.”

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A closer look at the phenomenon of “self-inflicted” infections in Greece reveals a 2011 study titled “Report of the Ad Hoc Expert Group of the Greek Focal Point on the Outbreak of HIV/AIDS in 2011,” in which Greek researchers call rumors of HIV procuring “well-founded.” The authors—scientists at the University Mental Health Research Institute, a drug-monitoring organization in Greece—explain that “drug users with a severe chronic condition jump the queue and are admitted in a short period of time.”

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But as with the researchers behind the WHO study, the UMHRI scientists fail to describe how those looking for HIV go about infecting themselves. They point only to an “increase in needle-sharing” and an “increase in unsafe sex practices.”

People on Twitter, always eager to offer up their own contrived theories, can’t fathom what “self-inflicted” HIV might be. They’re too busy hating on Greece’s financial crisis to be creative:

Nov 25, 2013 17:25 UTC@DaveArmstrong58

Lovely Trends in Bankrupt Greece (this is the road we're rapidly heading down, folks): people deliberately... http://t.co/YKVXn81dn3

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Nov 25, 2013 16:22 UTC@katewerk

Great moments in socialism. MT @zerohedge Half Of New Greek HIV Cases Are Self-Inflicted To Receive Benefits http://t.co/vG9L6IJ0y7

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The worst part of all of this: WebMD’s no help. 

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  • Some part of this is true, I live in the San Francisco Bay area and know people who are HIV+ If you have HIV & are homeless, can get free housing in a few months, as opposed to years on a waiting list if you are HIV-I have heard stories from my homeless friends of people purposely contracting HIV by sharing needles with someone who is infected just to get free housing.I guess it goes to show that living on the street and push some do drastic things.  

Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. A prominent Ukrainian far-right activist, part of a hard-line nationalist movement that played a leading role in the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich, was shot dead by police overnight, authorities said on March 25. The Interior Ministry said Oleksander Muzychko, also known as Sashko Bily, was killed by officers of the 'Sokol' special unit as he tried to escape from a cafe in the western Ukrainian region of Rivne. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3IWHV
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