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Criticism mounts of decision to reintroduce compulsory HIV testing

Foreign group describes health ministry move as 'shocking development'

London-based Greece Solidarity Campaign says decision targets many of those already marginalised and suffering from the results of the disastrous austerity policies championed by the government

(File photo: Reuters) (File photo: Reuters) The decision by the health minister to reintroduce a measure that allows police to detain anyone for the purposes of compulsory HIV tests has been branded a "shocking development" by the London-based Greece Solidarity Campaign.

"The news that the health ministry of Greece is reintroducing the ministerial decree that led to the mandatory HIV tests is a shocking development. Clearly this decision is based on targeting many of those already marginalised and suffering from the results of the disastrous austerity policies, championed by the Greek government," the group said in a statement on Wednesday.

Introduced last year by the then Pasok health minister Andreas Loverdos, health decree GY/39A resulted in the round-up and subsequent forced testing of hundreds of women. The 17 found to be HIV positive had their names, personal details and photographs published in the media, on the grounds of protecting public health.

The decree was overturned in May (pdf of order) by deputy health minister Fotini Skopouli, who subsequently resigned following Democratic Left's withdrawal from government.

But in one of his first acts as minister, Adonis Georgiadis restored the decree (pdf of order), in an order signed on June 26 and published on the government's electronic website Diavgeia on July 1. The decree will formally come back into force upon publication in the government gazette (FEK).

"Those targeted will include migrants, people who inject drugs and sex workers. It is also a gross infringement of human rights and is contrary to all EU human rights policies as well as all established public health policies across the EU," the Greek Solidarity Campaign said.

"In its attempts to deflect the anger and frustration of the Greek people over the poverty and humanitarian disaster inflicted on them by the policies of austerity, the Greek government is now seeking scapegoats and HIV+ people will be the latest addition."

The campaign, which visited Athens most recently in April, calls on the health ministry to end "this appalling and degrading policy and also calls upon the human rights and public health organisations to intervene, in order to prevent this attack on HIV+ people".

"We stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ and HIV+ communities in Greece and will continue to campaign against this decision," it said.

Main opposition party Syriza said Georgiadis' had confirmed what his role will be as minister. 

"Violating any sense of legitimacy and medical ethics and closing his eyes to the fascist construct that is Golden Dawn, Mr Georgiadis, under the guise of reducing the transmission of infectious diseases and ensuring public health, transforms the police and repressive mechanisms into  protagonists that address disease as a crime," it said.
 

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