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WHO Retracts Claims That "About Half" of Greek HIV Infections Are Self-inflicted

November 27, 2013

The WHO has "retract[ed] claims that crisis-hit Greeks are intentionally injecting themselves with [HIV] to collect state benefits almost two months after the shocking allegation was revealed in a report [.pdf] that triggered global media coverage," The Guardian reports (Smith, 11/26). "The startling claim was contained in a single sentence on page 112 of the organization's European report, published in September and more broadly publicized by the agency in late October," the New York Times notes (Hakim, 11/26). "WHO said HIV rates had risen 'significantly' in the debt-ridden country, with 'about half' of new HIV infections self-inflicted, allowing people to receive benefits of €700 [$950] per month," Sky News writes (11/26). "WHO cited no one in making this claim, and offered no additional data to back it up," according to the Wall Street Journal's "Real Time Brussels" blog (Stevis, 11/26).

"In a statement [on Tuesday], the WHO apologized for the mistake and said it was the result of an editing error," Fox Business notes, adding, "[T]he WHO said it would be accurate to say that slightly more than half of Greece's new HIV cases are among those who inject drugs" (Egan, 11/26). "The WHO has admitted that the 'erroneous reference' is based on a study published in The Lancet by Alexander Kentikelenis and colleagues in September 2011," according to RT News (11/26). "But that study found only a small number of anecdotal cases of Greek people infecting themselves with HIV to get benefit pay-outs," Washington Post blogger Max Fisher writes in the newspaper's "WorldViews" blog (11/26).

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