Experts see drop in drug-use related HIV

After a spiralling outbreak of HIV in crisis-hit Greece that peaked in 2012, figures from the first half of the year indicate a drop in infections by the AIDS-causing virus among drug users.

According to data by the Hellenic Center of Disease Control and Prevention (KEELPNO) that were presented during a recent conference in Athens, in the first six months of 2014 there were 372 cases of HIV infection, compared to 462 such cases in the same period last year, 524 in 2012 and 466 in 2011.

KEELPNO officials said the drop was mainly the result of easing trends among intravenous drug users. Of the 372 new cases of HIV infection, only 49 were drug-use related, down from 152 in 2013, 190 in 2012 and 113 in 2011.

Experts say that Greece’s HIV epidemic grew from conditions that had been developing for years, such as the absence of programs to provide addicts with clean needles and methadone clinics for those trying to quit.

Up to 1,080 drug users, mostly in Athens city center, were infected between 2011-2013. The vast majority, 84.1 percent, were men aged 25-34. One in four was of foreign origin.

Experts said authorities and NGOs were better able to contain the crisis because the epidemic was mostly limited within to central Athens. According to KEELPNO data, more than 404,000 needles (53 per user) were handed out in the Greek capital during 2012, up from 61,516 in 2010 (7 per user).

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