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WHO: Claim that 50 percent of Greek HIV cases are 'self-inflicted' is false

The claim, which went viral on Twitter, was later called an editing error by the WHO. There is no evidence of Greeks intentionally infecting themselves with HIV

By Ananth Baliga

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- A claim made by the World Health Organization that 50 percent of HIV cases in Greece were self-inflicted as a way to get state benefits was an editing error, and not true, according to a recent apology from the organization.

The claim, which spread across social media Monday, was part of a sentence in an Oct. 30 WHO report on the European region.

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“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 read.

Once the claim took off on the Internet, a spokesman for the WHO was quick to clarify.

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“There is no evidence of people in Greece or anywhere else in Europe deliberately infecting themselves,” said WHO spokesperson Martin Donoghoe.

The report was produced by the Institute of Health Equity at University College London and in response to the recent buzz around the report, the institute said the line should have read “about half of infections are due to needle injection, some of which is deliberate self-infection.”

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The claim, which came out last month, did not receive much attention until it was reported by New Scientist magazine, (since corrected). After that it went viral on Twitter and was retweeted by European journalists and politicians.

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According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the breakdown in preventive services in Greece has seen a rise in the number of HIV cases among people who inject drugs "exceeded the number of new cases reported among men who have sex with men," in 2012.

[The New York Times] [WHO] [New Scientist]

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