ATHENS, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Greek society still needs to fight the rhetoric of hate and homophobia is the message HIV positive Greeks expressed on the occasion of World AIDS Day.
"New generations are more informed about HIV. However, there are people who lose their jobs because of the disease, people who are rejected by their family and friends. Lots of people still consider it a punishment for gay people or people who frequently change sexual partners," Giorgos Tsiakalakis, head of Communication of Positive Voice, the Hellenic Organization for HIV-positive people, told Xinhua on Friday.
According to a recent study by the Hellenic Center for Disease Control & Prevention (KEELPNO), there were 540 people diagnosed with the HIV virus in the first ten months of 2018. Among them, 448 are men and 92 are women, and these numbers are similar to the same periods of the previous two years.
In general, until Oct. 1 this year, 17,241 people infected with the virus have been recorded and 4,199 of them have AIDS. The number of people that have died due to virus complications in Greece are 2,846.
On the occasion of World AIDS Day that falls on Saturday, a campaign about HIV awareness concluded in Athens with the lighting of the Greek Parliament at Syntagma Square.
"The campaign is a profound political statement. The core of it is that in order to fight the discrimination experienced by HIV-positive people, we must fight the lack of tolerance, the rhetoric of hate, the homophobia and the fear we generally have for the different," explained Tsiakalakis.
"The stigma of the HIV-positive people is the tree. The forest is the largely phobic society that pushes everyone who feels different and deviates from the average on the sidelines," he added.
Many may think the disease affects people who live or choose to live on the margins of the society, according to Tsiakalakis, but the reality is vice versa.
"The marginalization is the one that nourishes HIV. There are studies showing that when social determinants such as marginalization or unemployment are eliminated, individuals are less vulnerable to transmitted diseases such as HIV," he said.
"We want to spread the message of acceptance and talk about equality, respect of human rights and inclusion. Vulnerable groups are the symptom of the pathogenesis of society, not their cause," Tsiakalakis concluded.