NEWS

HIV infections on the increase

The number of new cases of HIV infection in Greece this year is expected to equal, or even surpass, last year’s worrying 25 percent increase on previous years, experts warned yesterday. A total of 485 new cases of infection with HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, were reported between January 1 and October 31 this year, as compared to 562 for the whole of 2005, according to the Health Ministry’s Center for Infectious Disease Control (KEEL). Of the infections reported this year, most (47 percent) occurred through homosexual intercourse between men, while 24 percent were the result of heterosexual intercourse, KEEL said. Most of those infected through heterosexual sex were women, chiefly from countries where the rate of AIDS transmission between heterosexuals is high. There were no details regarding the method of transmission in the remaining 34 percent of cases. There have been three cases this year of HIV being contracted through blood transfusion (one of whom was infected while abroad). The majority of HIV infections in Greece affect the 25-44 age group with men aged 30-34 and women aged 25-29 the highest risk groups. There are 76 children aged 13 and under reported to be infected with HIV in Greece. Of these, 53 contracted the infection from their mothers, the remainder through blood transfusions. A total of 19 people have died of AIDS in Greece since the beginning of this year, according to KEEL figures. Since 1983 when the AIDS epidemic broke out, 1,513 carriers of the virus have died in Greece. Over the summer, the Health Ministry launched a public awareness campaign aimed at curbing the rise in HIV infections. It also heralded a national action plan, including free HIV tests and a media campaign to educate the public about the disease.