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Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, and Fox News are all in a lather over a discredited World Health Organization report that up to 40% of new HIV cases in Greece are self-inflicted for a 700 Euro per month benefit.

RUSH: This story out of Greece.  This is from New Scientist.  "The impact of recession is clear in countries with the most severe economic problems. In Greece, for example, suicides rose by 17% and murder rates more than doubled between 2007 and 2011," and get this. You're not going to believe this. "Half of new HIV infections," that'd be AIDS for those of you in Rio Linda. Are you sitting down for this?  If you want to know what the welfare state does to people... Snerdley, are you listening to this?  I want you to hear it.

"Half of new HIV infections between 2009 and 2011 are estimated to have been self-inflicted to secure monthly benefits of €700."   It may seem completely insane, but according to one study for the World Health Organization... That's the UN, and they are never wrong, right? "Half of new HIV infections [in Greece] are estimated to have been self-inflicted to secure monthly benefits of €700," about $945 a month, €700 in welfare payments.

Personally, when I heard the story of Greeks self-inflicting HIV for money I thought it was a tragic cost of the austerity being forced upon the people of Greece. Of course when the right-wing hears about it, it's proof of the lengths lazy, selfish people will go in order not to work and mooch from the "makers".

Regardless, the WHO report doesn't appear to have much, if any, substance behind the claim, as Media Matters notes:

For the statistic that half of all recent infections in Greece were self-inflicted, New Scientist cited a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations.

However, the WHO report is incorrect. The WHO's source for this figure is a 2011 study in the British medical journal The Lancet. Here is what the Lancet study actually says:

An authoritative report described 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. These programmes offer access to synthetic opioids and can have waiting lists of 3 years or more in urban areas. [emphasis added]
Somehow, the "few individuals" mentioned by The Lancet became "half of new HIV infections" in the WHO report.

Furthermore, the "authoritative report" cited by The Lancet says:

An additional factor the committee believed worth considering is the well-founded suspicion that some problem users are intentionally infected with HIV, because of the benefit they are entitled to (approximately € 1,400 every two months), and also because they are granted "exceptional admission" to the Substitution Programme. It is well-known that the Substitution Programme has a long waiting list and that the waiting time can be over 3-4 years. Drug users with a severe chronic condition jump the queue and are admitted in a short period of time. [emphasis added]
So, the original source for this claim merely says that there is a "well-founded suspicion" that "some problem users" of IV drugs had intentionally infected themselves. A "suspicion" is not the same thing as a documented occurrence, let alone "half" of all recent infections.
It's probably true that yes, there are a few individuals desperate enough to infect themselves with HIV in order to eat and receive drug-addiction treatment....but only an entitled ass would think that meant we needed to shred our already inadequate social-safety-net.

Originally posted to Watership Down on Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 06:45 PM PST.

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