UNAIDS urges Greek authorities to repeal Sanitary Decree
July 31, 2013
Today, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) published a press statement against the reinstatement of a health decree in Greece.
Earlier this month The Lancet published news about the Greek Government, who has brought back into force a Sanitary Decree on the transmission of infectious diseases that runs counter to all international guidelines on HIV testing and breaches human rights. On July 1 it was made public that this Sanitary Decree, repealed in April, had been reintroduced to allow mandatory health examinations, isolation, and compulsory treatment of any individuals with diseases deemed to be of importance to public health. This Sanitary Decree covers many diseases, but the most troubling applications of this Decree have been with regards to HIV.
The Decree identifies some groups as priorities for testing, including sex workers, intravenous drug users, homeless people, and undocumented migrants. A disturbing example of the application of the Decree was reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in the report Joint Technical Mission: HIV in Greece. The report outlined that many women, suspected of being illegal sex workers, were detained by the police, tested for HIV, and then had their details, including their HIV status, published on the internet by the police. These women were not asked to consent to the testing. HIV testing should never be done without consent and results should always be confidential, as stated in international guidelines. Regulations and decrees that stigmatise vulnerable and marginalised groups are counterproductive since they are likely to deter people at risk of HIV from seeking testing and services.
The Sanitary Decree reintroduced by the Greek Government seems to be more about political posturing rather than constructively engaging with public health. That is why STOP AIDS NOW! is just like UNAIDS deeply concerned over the reintroduction of the Sanitary Decree.
Click here to read the UNAIDS press statement.