Homophobic attack at Checkpoint in Athens

The building that houses checkpoint managed by our member organisation Positive Voice in the centre of Athens was the target of an attack with obvious homophobic motives at dawn on Monday, 11 March. The fire broke out on the first floor of the structure located in Monastiraki quarter and caused extensive material damage. However, the early intervention of the fire brigade prevented its spread to the upper floors, as well as to adjacent buildings in an extremely densely populated area.

Luckily, there were no people in the structure because volunteers of Positive Voice had left the building at 12:30 in the evening to implement the club’s external action and the attack took place about an hour and a half later.

According to the fire service, the attackers came from the balcony on the first floor and caused the fire by throwing gasoline. They threw the rainbow flag from the façade, revealing so the homophobic characteristics of the attack.

The Checkpoint as a Positive Voice initiative and AHF Europe, have conducted over 100,000 free tests and diagnosed about 30% of new HIV cases each year in Greece. The confidence of society and vulnerable groups in this effort and the international recognition of its success is due to the fact that it is as high as the value of health, dignity, equality and respect for human rights.

Through the operation of Checkpoint, Positive Voice are leading the elimination of discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices that push entire social groups into the margins and threaten social cohesion. In this way, they serve health by focusing on human beings, regardless of gender expression, identity, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, social status, religion and financial status.

The attack will not prevent Positive Voice from fulfilling their Mission nor stop its operation for a moment. Recipients of our services will be temporarily admitted to the mobile unit that is parked outside the building.

Positive Voice calls on all social partners, public bodies, institutions, civil society organizations, businesses and every citizen to raise their rainbow flag on their buildings as a symbolic response against such intimidation.

DPNSEE and it members fully support our colleagues and stand with them!

Survey of drug users mapping in the centre of Athens

DPNSEE member organisations from Greece Prometheus and Positive Voice have developed a study on the anthropogeography of users of psychoactive substances in the centre of Athens in September 2018 using a sample of 200 people. The survey collected information on demographics and living conditions of users, type of psychoactive substance they use and whether or not they joined the retirement or substitution program.

According to the findings of the study, 80% of users are male. The average age is on an upward trend compared to 2010 (33.7) and 2012 (37) – currently it is 38 years. 53% of the sample are primary school graduates, while in terms of nationality there is an increase in the number of foreigners (from 13% in 2012 to 34.5%).

In the residence area in the centre of Athens, the largest concentration of population is located in the areas of Vathis Square, Karaiskakis Square the Theatre Square and the University campus. Regarding the type of psychoactive substance, the highest rate is 63.5% heroin use, while cocaine use accounts for 44.5% of the sample, 14% for Tai, 16% for benzodiazepines and 15% for shisha.

Out of the 200 people, 116 have been included, even once during their lifetime, in a drug rehabilitation or substitution program. However, at the time of the survey, only 49 people were enrolled in a program. The majority of the sample (130 persons) is not in a program or have applied for it.

In conclusion, it is noted that the population of psychoactive drug users in the centre of Athens is “aging“, while the association of the particular population with a high risk of premature death is questioned. Also, high users’ time in the centre of Athens, coupled with the increased rate of homelessness, raises serious issues of personal and public health and user safety. The findings of this study are consistent with the results of the Aristotel’s HCV/HIV study and demonstrate the need for harm reduction policies such as the re-opening of the medically supervised areas and the immediate increase in free distribution of safe use in cooperation with organizations active in the field.

To summarize, the findings of the study highlight the issue by demonstrating that the problems associated with the drug use in the centre of Athens are perpetuated, increased and differentiated at rates that require immediate and effective action.

The study was conducted in collaboration with a working group under the scientific responsibility of Mr. Giorgos Kalamitsis, President of Hellenic Patients’ Association Prometheus, Minerva Melpomeni Malliori, Professor of Psychiatry, First Psychiatric Clinic of Athens University, Eginiteio Hospital and Vana Sypsa, Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Laboratory of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics of the Medical School of the University of Athens and courtesy of the Athens Trade Association and the Union of Hoteliers of Attica and Argos Oasaronic.

To view the original article follow this link>>>>

DPNSEE working visit to Greece

Members of the DPNSEE board, Ana Lybenova and Vlatko Dekov visited Athens from 28 to 30 November 2018. Aim of the visit was to meet with major stakeholders in the field of drug policy and obtain information about the situation, problems and viewpoints of civil society and government actors. It was the final visit to the countries of the region in the process that started in July 2016.

Lybenova and Dekov visited DPNSEE member organizations from Greece Positive voiceDiogenis and Centre for Life. The host of this working visit were: Marios Atzemis, the DPNSEE board member and member of Positive voice and Nikos Stergiou from Diogenis.

During the three – day delegation visit, DPNSEE board members visited CheckPoint Athens, Kethea Needle exchange service, Red Umbrella Athens, National EMCDDA Focal Point, NGO STEPS, NGO Praksis and activists at the mobile unit for HIV & HCV rapid tests.

Based on the general information that were collected on this visit, the main problems were identified for the possible areas for advocacy of DPNSEE network.

To see the full report from this visit follow this link >>>

We are all POSITIVE!

On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2018, the Greek Association of People Living with HIV Positive Voice and the Onassis Foundation organized a series of interpersonal activities “I am Positive” promoting human stories related to HIV/AIDS on 21 and 22 November 2018 at The Onassis Stegi Cultural Centre in Athens.

Children and adolescents had the opportunity to chat with representatives of the seropositive community on sexual health, but also about the challenges and prejudices they face and the stigma that accompanies these groups through their stories, hopes and fears, the reality that HIV-positive people in Greece face and the medical and social dimension of the disease. A serodifferent couple, a mother whose son lives with HIV and a gay claiming his right to prophylactic treatment PrEP shared with the public their thoughts and experiences.

The debate was co-ordinated by journalist Elena Akrita.

To view the original article, including video recordings of personal testimonies, follow this link>>>>

Discussing for matters that matter to us

For one more year, the global campaign “Support. Don’t Punish” has been successfully implemented in Greece, with the valuable support of Drug Policy Network South East Europe, that effectively coordinated the implementation of the activities among the different countries in the SEE region, and International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) – responsible for the overall coordination of the campaign around the world.

This year in Greece, 7 different civil society organizations – that constitute the Greek NGO Platform for Psychoactive Substances*, an unofficial initiative for joint action among organizations working in the area of drug policy and psychoactive substances – joined forces and cooperated in order to effectively spread the message of the campaign, sensitize the public, raise awareness regarding the harms being caused by the criminalization of people who use drugs and promote the need for human rights and public health oriented drug policy and drug law reform.

These organizations co-organized a joint event, an open dialogue meeting entitled: “Support. Don’t Punish” – Discussing for matters that matter to us. The event took place on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at 7 pm, at the Athens Municipal Cellular Market (42, Fokionos Negris str). The aim of the dialogue was to discuss regarding: current public health and drug policies applied in addressing the issue of psychoactive substances, the way users are being treated by the state and society, the issue of combating crime that accompanies drug use by law enforcement and finally the removal of unjustified social stereotypes at the expense of PWUD, the importance for the provision of substantial support, as well as the need for equal, meaningful and substantial participation of users community in procedures totally concerning them.

The open dialogue meeting started with the presentation of the SDP campaign, important issues on the current national drug policy and the priorities set out by the community of PWUD by Mr. Anastasiou Christos (representative of PeNUPS) who also coordinated the discussion. Mrs. Katerina Konidari, psychologist, social researcher and writer, talked about the representation of addiction treatment on art; Mr. Michalis Lolis, Police Lieutenant of the A’ (First) Police Department for Combating Racist Violence, communicated his experience on human rights’ issues and the protection of people with different identities and Mr. Yannis Kissas, representative of PeNUPS specifically referred to the Network’s proposals for supportive policies rather than the punishment of drug users.

This year the participation at the event exceeded our expectations. More than 80 people from different backgrounds (e.g. scientists, professionals working in the field of drugs, representative from the Ministry of Health, people from the community of PWUD, volunteers from different organizations, activists, representatives from residents’ initiative, people with no prior involvement from the general population, etc.) were present at our event, who actively participated in the discussion by sharing their reflections, raising questions and contributing from their point of view. At the end of the event, following an online vote among members of the Network a symbolic prize (an office compass) was awarded at the OKANA Substitution Unit which according to Peers’ view provides the most friendly and integrated services to PWUD.

The press release for the event was published by many different online media sites. Moreover, ERT – Greek public state television – expressed the interest to present our event. Mr Christos Anastasiou, Μr Thanos Papagianopoulos and Mr. Marios Atzemis – all representatives of the community of PWUD – were hosted by the journalist Mr. Arvanitis Kostas at his broadcast entitled “Different Dimension” and talked about the campaign, promoted the message that PWUD need support instead of punishment, underlined the need for active involvement of PWUD in the decision making processes and the need to address stigma and marginalization.


*The NGO Platform for psychoactive substances consists of the following organizations:
PeNUPS – Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances
CENTRE FOR LIFE for the support of people living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
DIOGENIS – Drug Policy Dialogue [IDPC partner member & DPNSEE partner member]
POSITIVE VOICE – Association of People living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
PROMETHEUS – Hellenic Liver Patient Association [DPNSEE member]
PRAKSIS [IDPC network member]
STEPS

Mapping services supporting drug users in Athens

According to recent estimations, around 30.000 people coming from vulnerable populations, including drug users, live in Athens. The lack of effective monitoring systems and related data regarding the actual numbers of these populations, and the insufficient communication and cooperation among service providers, leads to overlapping services, barriers to access in prevention, healthcare, harm reduction and therapeutic services and poor management of human and financial resources.

To contribute to solving this serious problem, Diogenis is building a mobile app as an interactive tool for street-workers and professionals working in the field of drugs. This tool will contribute in the best dissemination of information regarding the available governmental and NGO services for drug users and other vulnerable populations, and also help street-workers provide direct linkage to healthcare, prevention, harm reduction, therapeutic services, information on emergency issues and holistic support to drug users.

This is an example of a crowd funding campaign – a method that many civil society organisations is using recently to generate fund.

Greek organisations united around the “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign

For one more year, the global campaign “Support.Don’t Punish” has been successfully implemented in Greece. In 2017, 6 different civil society organizations – that constitute the Greek NGO Platform for Psychoactive Substances, an unofficial initiative for joint action among organizations working in the area of drug policy and psychoactive substances – joined forces and cooperated in order to effectively spread the message of the campaign, sensitize the public, raise awareness regarding the harms being caused by the criminalization of people who use drugs and promote the need for human rights and public health oriented drug policy and drug law reform.

The organizations that supported the implementation of the campaign were:

  • CENTRE FOR LIFE” for the support of people living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
  • DIOGENIS”- Drug Policy Dialogue [IDPC partner member & DPNSEE partner member]
  • PeNUPS”- Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances
  • POSITIVE VOICE”- Association of People living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
  • PROMETHEUS” – Hellenic Liver Patient Association [DPNSEE member]
  • PRAKSIS” [IDPC network member]

For the achievement of the aforementioned goals, two main activities were implemented:

  1. A press interview (June 27th, 12.00-14.00h, at Romantso, 3-5 Anaksagora Street, Omonia, Athens)
  2. A street event (June 27th, 19.00h at SIN Athina, Athens)

Furthermore, before the 27th of June, representatives of these organizations took the initiative to spread the message of the campaign during several official events, that were organized by state authorities by asking officials, journalists, scientists, decision-makers and other high-ranking representatives of governmental organizations to take a photograph with the logo of “Support.Don’t Punish” (e.g. Mrs. Teta Papoutsopoulou-Diamantopoulou, the National Drug Coordinator; Mr. Evaggelos Kavetzopoulos, President of the Hellenic Organization against Drugs- OKANA; Mr. Nikolaos Manios, Chairman of the Parliament’s Committee on Social Affairs; Μr. Nikolaos Paraskevopoulos, MP and former Minister of Justice).

The press interview given by representatives of PeNUPS

The press interview was given by representatives of PeNUPS (Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances), Mr. Christos Anastasiou and Mr. John Kissas, promoting in that way peer involvement which is one of the basic principles of Harm Reduction.

The remaining organizations actively supported the needs for the preparation and successful implementation of this activity. It was the first time that people coming from the community of PWUD had the floor in a press interview, which attracted 30 participants and was coordinated by the journalist Mrs. Ioanna Sotirchou.

During the afternoon of the 27th of June, a street event also took place in the center of Athens. The goals of this activity were to make the campaign more visible, celebrate the message of “Support.Don’tPunish”, provide informational material and offer some services both to the general population and vulnerable groups (including PWUD) in the area.

 

The street event in the center of Athens

Volunteers from the coordinating organizations actively contributed in the implementation. T-shirts, bags, stickers with the logo of “Support. Don’t Punish” and flyers with the basic principles of Harm Reduction were distributed. In addition, NGO Praksis offered free, anonymous and voluntary rapid testing for HIV, HBV and HCV with its mobile unit. Moreover, of outmost importance was the contribution of the initiative “STEPS” that helped in the preparation of food and beverages and offered music. This event gathered and united around a hundred people.

For the needs of campaign’s promotion a facebook page was created under the title: Support.Don’t Punish -Greece- where you can have access to more detailed information, videos and photographs. Facebook advert was used attract more people to the page, resulted in 300 likes within a week.

2 facebook events were also created for the promotion of the two activities:

https://www.facebook.com/events/203865003471040

https://www.facebook.com/events/321069778316468

Group photo from the street event

Highlighting problems, proposals for solutions and the need for protecting the rights of HIV positive detainees, at the conference of the Centre of Life

The Centre of Life organized a conference titled “Detention centres and HIV: Prevention, Therapy, Support” aiming to inform about the defence of the human rights of the HIV positive detainees.

The Secretary General of Crime Policy of the Greek Ministry of Justice, Mr. Eftichis Fitrakis, opened the conference with a salute and highlighted that “this conference is part of an overall problem that concerns all the aspects of human rights and is related to health in combination with detention conditions”.

Main part of the conference was the presentation of the research of the Centre of Life “HIV positive detainees and access to Social Rights”, the results of which are based on the interference of the Organization from March 2016 until December 2016, with the Detainee Hospital of Korydallos, the women’s department of the Korydallos prison, the detention facilities of directorate of Attiki and Thessaloniki Aliens and the Diavata prison.

According to the research of the Centre of Life, it is suggested:

  • Accession of the Detainee Hospital of Korydallos to the National Healthcare System, ensuring a separate fund from the budget for the antiretroviral treatment, as well as the employment of specialized and sufficient health professionals.
  • Introduction of therapeutic rehabilitation and substitution programs.
  • Improvement of the infrastructure, conformation of the yards and creation of recreation and sports areas.
  • Compliance with a dietary plan that will correspond to the special dietary needs of the HIV positive detainees, according to their religious beliefs as well.
  • The issuing of the Ministerial Decision for the details concerning the regular update of the personnel of the detention centres, as well as the information of the detainees on issues of counselling hygiene and receiving preventive measures for dealing with HIV or other infectious diseases.
  • Systematic evaluation, from competent bodies, of the applied measures and practices as well as collaboration of the bodies, state and non-state, at a local, national and international level.

During the conference, the competent bodies agreed on the need of promoting a common strategy, in order for detainees to experience dignifying detention conditions and uninterrupted access to health care services. According to the participants, this will improve the public health care issues, at a broader scale, and in the same time it will enhance the level of the provided medical care and the detention conditions in prison.

You can find here the study conducted by Centre for Life.