Minister targets men who had unprotected sex with prostitutes

Several more sex workers were confirmed to be HIV carriers on Wednesday as hundreds of male visitors to brothels contacted a helpline to arrange for tests and Health Minister Andreas Loverdos called for the criminalization of unprotected sex with illegal prostitutes.

More tests conducted on prostitutes by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEEL) found five more to be HIV positive, bringing the total number of women with the potentially deadly virus to 17.

Meanwhile more than 2,000 men had called KEEL?s helpline by late yesterday to seek advice after having unprotected sex with prostitutes.

Loverdos accused these men yesterday of gross negligence, adding that their sexual behavior ?bordered on outright callousness.? ?It would be shortsighted, unfair and incompatible with our culture not to see the responsibility of the guy with the money who?s paying,? Loverdos said. Earlier, the minister had said that seeking unprotected sex at illegal brothels should be categorized as a felony. The sex workers detained so far face charges of intentionally causing grievous bodily harm, also a felony.Health authorities said yesterday that most of these women were addicted to drugs and working as prostitutes to raise the money for their fixes.

According to research by the Organization Against Drugs (OKANA), addict prostitutes receive between five and 10 clients a day.

Loverdos on Wednesday rebuffed widespread criticism against the authorities for failing to curb the illegal sex trade in central Athens, as well as the illegal drug trade, which is also known to have contributed to the spread of HIV. He claimed that municipal police officers had interfered with the work of KEEL mobile units, forcing them to move.

Meanwhile a public outcry against the decision to make public the photographs of 12 sex workers alleged to have tested positive for HIV continued to fuel fierce debate on social networking sites. Both Loverdos and Citizens? Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis defended the decision, noting that public health overrides privacy concerns.