During the Steering Committee Meeting in Athens, on April 24-25 2017, AIDS Action Europe met with its Greek member organisations. The meeting was organised by our Steering Committee member, Marianela Kloka from PRAKSIS, Greece. AAE used the opportunity to learn more about the situation on the ground, the challenges faced by the organisations and explored the needs for joint advocacy action.

The Greek member organisations present were Positive Voice, Centre for Life, Athens and Thessaloniki Checkpoint and PRAKSIS.

During the meeting the local organisations shared challenging issues concerning the situation around testing and diagnostics, stigma towards people who use drugs and other key populations, and relationship between local NGOs and the state.

Greek organisations that perform VCT are under pressure because there are stock outs of confirmation tests and their clients whose rapid tests were positive cannot get a diagnosis and thus access to antiretroviral therapy. The organisations clearly identified administrative problems, and issues with the reconstructions of the procurement and financing system.  The change in procedure has been going on for long but it is not clear for the NGOs so far. Writing a letter to the Greek authorities by AAE is considered in order to put up pressure on the decision makers also from the European level. (The letter was submitted in November 16, 2017, please click here to read it)

The situation with the key populations is even worse: the NGOs observe a very discriminating behaviour towards people who use drugs. Hospitals sometimes refuse to provide them with medication unless they stop using drugs. The whole situation is turning into an emergency crisis. Greek NGOs are addressing this issue via different tools and channels. They have organized a protest in front of the hospital and are in constant negotiations with the health care providers.

The NGOs are also advocating for the legalization of street sex work. This is a very new terminology for Greece, as it becomes related to work and labour rights. The Day Centre for women sex workers established and conducted by the NGOs to empower, support and advice them. Also an increasingly important new group is male refugees as sex workers that require attention.

The NGOs also told about a shelter for drug users and homeless people which was shut down after a few months of operation. Centre for Life reported that due to the refugee crisis the situation of street drug users worsenedThese people are caught in a vicious circle: street – prison – street – prison. Prisons are overcrowded and the NGOs don’t even know the exact figures from the state.

The main reason of difficult relationship between the state and NGO is that governmental organisations see NGOs as competitors especially in information and data collection. Governmental organisations do not want to have the representatives of key populations in the joint committees since the work of NGOs exposes the issues that the state is not managing to do such as safe drug consumptions rooms.

Additionally, organisations presented their campaign against Stigma and Discrimination: kentrozois.gr/en/press-releases/take-down-the-label