No Country for Sick People

In Europe, Health on 16/02/2013 at 12:43 pm
Greek healthcare protest against cuts

Greek healthcare protest against cuts

Just when it seems that things cannot get any worse in Greece, comes the news that antiretroviral drugs for HIV will not be given out any more as part of the subsidised national health system ā€“ a system already sorely tested. This has led to large numbers of patients, frightened and confused, turning up at Greek hospitals demanding to know what is happening. The reality of the situation is that without antiretrovirals, people living with HIV will see their immune systems collapse fairly quickly, resulting not only in a range of serious infections but also resistance developing to treatment. Even in many African countries, antiretrovirals are now available free, as not only does it protect the health of those affected but also plays a large role in the spread of HIV.

Prior to the latest developments, I had been in touch with the editor of Baseline magazine, a publication circulated in all UK sexual health clinics, which deals with HIV issues. I had asked if the situation was ok in Greece, and was told that there were no apparent problems as yet. I had seen a film report some months ago that HIV+ people would not receive social security unless their CD4 count was below the dangerous level and this was leading to hungry patients actually putting their health at risk in order to feed themselves. I was told that the situation in the clinics was stable at present. However, there had been reports of a lack of cancer drugs being available and I read an article about Greeks scouring the UK and elsewhere in Europe trying to get cancer drugs because the Greek health service could no longer afford them.

Queers Against the Cuts, the LGBTQ anti-cuts organisation based in London and Brighton, is now issuing a press release about the situation in Greece for the LGBTQ press in the UK and we are also liaising with Basline and others to get bodies such as the European Parliament Working Group on HIV/AIDS and others to intervene in Greece.

It is not just LGBTQ people in Greece who will be affected by this but also drug users and so once again we are seeing the marginalised in Greek society being used the bear the burden for the austerity agenda. However, this time it could actually lead to the deaths of many people. It is simply unacceptable that citizens of an EU country are unable to access life saving drugs. For all of the above reasons, and because I am also a person living with HIV, I am intending to go on the next Greek Solidarity Campaign delegation to Greece in April and to gather the facts on the ground as well as providing solidarity to those affected by these medical cuts. We must all ensure that people in Greece have access to vital medicines, whatever their condition.

Greece is now in the situation where it is the victim of a plague, similar to something from the classical legends. This time, however, the plague is completely manmade and its name is Austerity


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