NEWS

Greek HIV warning from doctors

An aggressive form of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS, has been discovered in Greece as the number of Greeks suffering from the disease has risen sharply, doctors warned yesterday. Ahead of the Panhellenic AIDS Conference which begins on Friday, doctors yesterday made public the results of a study by the University of Athens, which found the existence of a new form of HIV in Greece. Experts found that this strain of the virus was more easily transmittable and more devastating for the health of those contracting it compared to the previous form of HIV found in Greece. This aggressive strain has also been detected in other European countries, doctors said. The director of the center for diseases at Erythros Stavros hospital in Athens, Marios Lazanas, said it was too early to tell what the impact of this strain might be. He added that its origins had not yet been pinpointed. The strain has also been discovered in the USA and appears to be resistant to anti-retroviral drugs normally used to treat HIV. Over 1,400 Greeks have died of AIDS since 1981, when the disease was first detected in the country. Over the last few years up to 450 new cases of HIV have been detected each year. However, doctors warned that the number of overall HIV sufferers in Greece had risen by 10 percent in the past year. Women make up 18 percent of sufferers, which is much lower than many other European countries where this figure is usually around 50 percent. The president of the Hellenic Society for the Study and Prevention of AIDS, Panayiotis Gargalianos, said that the sudden upturn in the number of HIV cases had been caused by a slowdown in efforts to inform the public about ways of preventing the virus. He also said that thanks to the development of new drugs, many people had the false impression that HIV is easily curable. Meanwhile, a survey of 350 AIDS sufferers in Greece found that almost a fifth of them were deserted by friends and relatives when they fell ill. Almost nine in 10 said they wanted to work but a third of respondents said they could not find any jobs.