A total of 1,404 AIDS deaths have been recorded in Greece since the first case of the disease in 1981, health officials said yesterday, adding that new outbreaks have stabilized to well below the European Union average over the past few years. The head of the state Hellenic Center for Infectious Disease Control (KEEL), Angelos Hadzakis, told a press conference yesterday – on the occasion of today’s World AIDS Day – that the use of new, more effective medication has helped lower the number of AIDS deaths. «But there is no question of relaxing our vigilance, as this positive trend can easily be reversed,» he warned. Hadzakis said that out of the total 6,923 people registered with KEEL as HIV-positive between 1981 and the first half of 2004, 2,475 developed the disease and 1,404 succumbed. The worst year for AIDS deaths was 1995, when 158 victims were registered. After 1996, the second-worst year, the number of fatalities started to gradually decline. In the first half of this year, 12 people have died of AIDS in Greece. All the newly infected people were adults. By June 2004, 71 children had been registered as HIV-positive, of whom 33 developed the disease. According to EU-wide statistics for 2002 – when the Union still consisted of 15 states – the overall average figure for new AIDS sufferers was 24.8 per million. In Greece, the corresponding figure was just 8.7 per million of the population. For the same year, the EU average figure for new HIV infections was 76.7 per million, and 38 per million in Greece. Greece was one of the few EU countries, along with Germany and the Netherlands, where the main cause of transmission of HIV – the virus that can cause the disease – was sex between homosexual men.