Greece Arrests 17 HIV-Positive Women Following Brothel Crackdown

Greek authorities are cracking down on unlicensed brothels, where prostitutes who are working illegally likely are not undergoing mandated HIV tests.

Prostitution is legal in Greece, and brothels are licensed by the government. Officials believe a rise in HIV cases in the country may be due to illegal prostitution and an increase in injecting drug use.

In recent days, medical tests on more than 100 prostitutes conducted by Greece's Center for Disease Control and Prevention identified 17 HIV-positive cases. Hundreds more women will be screened during the coming weeks. Health officials are ramping up testing of prostitutes working in central Athens, home to more than 300 brothels currently operating without a license.

Thousands of Greek men have placed panicked calls to health centers after the names and photos of 12 of the 17 women -- who hail from Greece, Russia, and Bulgaria -- were published on the Greek police's website. Human rights advocates have slammed the decision to identify the women, noting it is unclear whether the prostitutes were aware they are HIV-positive.

Health Minister Andreas Loverdos said that following Sunday's elections, he plans to call on the next government to criminalize unprotected sex at brothels. He compared the situation to a "time bomb, and one that hits the whole of Greek society since many of these men have wives and families."