Study warns of rise of diseases in historical center of Athens

A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) into the presence of transmissible diseases in the historic center of Athens, where illegal prostitution and the trade and use of drugs is rife, suggests that many potentially dangerous diseases have spread while new ailments once believed to have been stamped out have reappeared.

The study, submitted to Parliament on Thursday, revealed worrying rises in cases of HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, malaria and tuberculosis, with a particularly sharp spike in syphilis, gonorrhoea, scabies and lice infections. Diseases such as polio, thought to have been eliminated in Greece, are creeping back too, according to the study.

KEELPNO expressed particular concern about the swift spread of HIV over the past few years which it described as “dramatic.” The report noted that unprotected sex was the most common cause of infection, with those aged between 25 and 35 the hardest hit and more than half of sufferers identified as men who have had sex with other men, but not necessarily homosexuals. An increasing number of male immigrants, chiefly Afghans and Kurds, are said to be soliciting men for sex despite often harboring homophobic sentiments that in some cases result in violence against their clients, researchers found.

KEELPNO expressed particular concern that 12.9 percent of people with HIV in Greece are immigrants, a relatively low percentage that is however rapidly increasing.

The report highlighted as a key root of the problem rampant prostitution in the historic center -- much of it unlicensed and involving men and women offering sexual services without protection or drug addicts offering their services for low prices in order to secure their next hit.

According to the report, fewer than 1,000 of some 20,000 women working as prostitutes in Greece are employed in licensed brothels, with the remainder entering the sex trade through trafficking rackets.


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