“Amnesty International is seriously concerned by the decision of Greek authorities involving the arrest, forced HIV testing, and pressing of criminal charges against 31 alleged sex workers,” Amnesty International said.
Between April 29 and May 4, 2012, the Service of the General Police Directorate of Attica and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention carried out joint actions in the center of Athens, to identify sex workers in open spaces and in illegal brothels. Reportedly as many as 31 alleged sex workers were arrested and face criminal charges of causing intentional grievous bodily harm, a felony, or of attempted bodily harm, after being tested and found HIV positive.
Upon arrest women were reportedly forced to undergo HIV test at the police station without consent and any information or counselling regarding the nature of test, according to Human Rights Watch.
The Hellenic Police and media outlets subsequently published and broadcast personal data, photographs and information from their medical records of their HIV-positive status from the Greek Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Amnesty International believes that the measures adopted by the Greek authorities are completely misguided and ineffective in terms of the stated policy goals, and that they will result in the further stigmatization of individuals who engage in sex work and of persons living with HIV.”
“Further, publication of names, photographs and positive HIV status is a fundamental breach of confidentiality and exposes sex workers to stigma and violence. Such measures are likely to result in further discrimination and could lead to reduced access to the health services they need, AI added.
Amnesty International has called on Greek authorities to stop the criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers including, in particular, those found to be HIV positive.
According to media reports, most of the women stated to the prosecutor that they were “drug addicts” who sold sex on occasion and were unaware they were carrying the HIV virus. All of the women are reportedly detained pending trial, and sixteen have been remanded to the hospital of Attica’s high-security Korydallos Prison.