WHO apologizes for baseless claim that Greeks had been self-injecting HIV to claim benefits


World Health Organization (WHO) was forced to retract a claim that Greeks have been self-injecting HIV in order to claim benefits of 700 euro per month. WHO was forced to issue a statement of apology after an outcry about publishing such a claim and thus without any scientific base.

Correction on HIV case study in Greece, featured in WHO Europe report on social determinants

26-11-2013

In September 2013, the WHO Regional Office for Europe published a report “Review of social determinants and the health divide in the WHO European Region” which was prepared by the Institute of Equity, University College London, United Kingdom. In this report, an erroneous reference is made to: “HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug substitution programmes.”

The sentence should read: “half of the new HIV cases are self-injecting and out of them few are deliberately inflicting the virus”. The statement is the consequence of an error in the editing of the document, for which WHO apologizes.

The source for the statement is a correspondence published in the Lancet by Alexander Kentikelenis and colleagues in September 2011. In this article, Kentikelenis mentions “accounts of deliberate self-infection by a few individuals to obtain access to benefits of €700 per month and faster admission onto drug substitution programmes.”, based on the report of the “Ad hoc expert group of the Greek focal point on the outbreak of HIV/AIDS in 2011” (Greek Documentation and Monitoring Centre for Drug, 2011).

Greece has reported a significant, 52% increase of new HIV infection in 2011 compared to the 2010, largely driven by infections among people who inject drugs in recent years. The reasons for this increase remain multifaceted and WHO welcomes efforts of the ad hoc working group and other entities to fully understand the underlying reasons and recommend appropriate measures to extend the benefits of the comprehensive package of interventions for harm reduction to all people who inject drugs.

for Key References see directly at WHO website

Had WHO and Lancet read KTG’s story “Greeks Contaminate With AIDS on Purpose”? Ops! No Evidence, Just a ‘Feeling’…  from Nov 29/2011 they would have been suspicious and had not just adopted the baseless claim.

ΠΟΥ: Μας συγχωρείτε λάθος, οι Έλληνες δεν μολύνονται επίτηδες με AIDS

In fact, the lengthy world report on AIDS was published by WHO on October 30/2013, the reference to Greek HIV was on page 112. However the issue got publicity on Monday, when a  conservative American commentator Rush Limbaugh weighed in, saying the story shows “what the welfare state does to people.”
In its report, the World Health Organization had claimed that “about half” of new H.I.V. cases in Greece are “self-inflicted” as a way to get state benefit payments.

“H.I.V. rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new H.I.V. infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug substitution programmes,” the report said.

The report was produced by the Institute of Health Equity at University College London and overseen by Sir Michael Marmot, an epidemiologist. In response to questions from The New York Times, a spokeswoman for the Institute of Health Equity said Tuesday that the report should have said “about half of infections are due to needle injection, some of which is deliberate self-infection.”

The study cited a Lancet study that said that “a few” such cases had been found, though that study cited yet another report. It was not immediately clear if any such cases had been documented.

The news of Greeks getting infected on purpose became the headline of many mainstream media around the world like SkyNews, Al Jazeera, FoxBusiness, DailyMail etc. It spread like a wildfire on social media, it was retweeted by European journalists and politicians.

Original WHO report page 112 in pdf here

see also EnetEnglish.gr and NewYorkTimes

PS what? world organizations and authorities issue reports without verifying their ‘facts’?
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