November 16, 2011
"Austerity measures brought in to tackle Europe's economic crisis may cause a rise in drug-related HIV infections as stretched health services struggle to cope, the E.U.'s narcotics agency said on Tuesday," Reuters reports. "Greece, which is facing huge cutbacks, reported a large outbreak of HIV infections among drug users in July, the Lisbon-based agency said in its yearly report," the news agency writes, noting, "New infections were also reported in Bulgaria, Estonia and Lithuania, it added."
Wolfgang Gotz, director of the agency, known by its acronym EMCDDA, said, "In some (E.U.) member states, we are witnessing an exceptional set of circumstances that create a perfect storm for causing the rapid spread of drug-related HIV infections within vulnerable communities," Reuters writes (Bugge, 11/15). While cocaine use in Europe is falling and may have peaked, according to the report, "the risk of HIV outbreaks among heroin [users] could increase as the economic downturn led to drug service budgets being overstretched, the agency warned," the Financial Times reports. The newspaper adds, "Budget cuts meant that European drug services 'may be less able to provide adequate responses' as HIV epidemics among drug [users] continued to pose 'a major health problem for many countries bordering the E.U.,' the agency said" (Wise, 11/15).