Greece ponders new HIV guidelines

Adopting recently introduced WHO standards would save lives, raise costs

Compliance with new guidelines by the World Health Organization (WHO) that recommend earlier treatment with AIDS drugs could save more lives in Greece but is expected to increase costs for hospital pharmacies in the austerity-hit country already groaning under the weight of antiretroviral therapies, doctors warn.

“All hospital directors are complaining about the cost as it is covered by social security funds which are currently under very big pressure,” Marios Lazanas, president of the Hellenic Hellenic Association for the Study and Control of AIDS, told Kathimerini.

He said the cost of therapy, estimated between 600 and 1,000 euros per patient per month, makes up between 30 and 60 percent of the pharmacies’ operational costs.

The new guidelines, which aim to set an international benchmark for when HIV-affected patients should begin antiretroviral treatment, are being examined by national committees.

Experts however said that adopting the WHO proposals would not significantly increase the number of people receiving AIDS drugs in Greece, as most cases are already covered by existing regulations.

Experts earlier this year warned of an alarming increase in HIV infections in Greece, particularly among intravenous drug users, as the debt crisis has led to deep cuts in healthcare and drug treatment programs.

In a move slammed by human rights organizations, newly appointed Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis recently reintroduced a health regulation granting the police powers to detain people and force them to undertake tests for HIV and other infectious diseases.