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October 6, 2013
October 6, 2013

Greece: The case of HIV-positive women and the disease of memory

Author: Thomas Tsalapatis Translator: Eleni Nicolaou
Source: EfSyn  Category: Letters from home
This article is also available in: esel
Greece: The case of HIV-positive women and the disease of memory

Broken voices, exposed bodies, horror reminders with a state provision, elimination of the human essence with a ministerial stamp. Sirens, announcements of a criminal moralism ostentatiously ignoring evidence, rigid faces of TV judges, shoddy inquisitors, commissioners of pilloring. And you constantly readjusting your body position, swirling in frustration, trying to collect the words that go up, the voice that thickens in the body, a late cry, a cry for dignity in the most criminal times.

The documentary “Ruins – HIV positive women; chronicle of an HIV witch-hunt” by Zoe Mavroudi describes the events that occurred a few days before the 2012 election: the police detained drug addicted women under the pretext of verifying data and forced them to undergo an HIV test. Those of them that were found HIV positive were indicted on felony charges for intended serious bodily harm. They were accused of prostitution without protection and knowingly transmitting the virus. Then the data and photos of the women were published aiming at warning the customers. TV and newspapers reproduced their photos, addresses and names, magnifying the hysteria, fear, revenge. The women were jailed under inhumane conditions without medical care. A year later, the women were acquitted. It turned out that they were not prostitutes, that they had not deliberately exposed anyone to risk. They did not even know they were HIV positive. Zoe Mavroudi’s documentary does not describe a human tragedy, it describes an atrocious crime. The way weak people can be socially assassinated and humiliated for political gain. The then Minister of Health, Andreas Loverdos, and the then Minster of Citizen Protection, Michalis Chryssochoidis, (good centre-left guys!) did not simply create moral panic of the medical kind using HIV. By distorting medical evidence in their statements, they were able to equate HIV with prostitutes (when in fact the first high-risk groups are homosexual men and users of intravenous drugs) and the prostitutes with migrants (when the vast majority of the HIV positive women were Greek). Thus, not only did they managed to spread a disorientating fear, but also they gave it a face, they described a group of people as guilty, as incarnations of the evil that threatens the holy Greek family. In this process, violations of medical confidentiality, forced examinations, ambiguous statements and illegal detentions proved once again that the most effective way to maintain such a democracy is its self-elimination. The two Ministers decided to oppose to Golden Dawn and deal with its high electoral rise by adopting its ideas, competing with its right-wing practices. What “Ruins” accomplishes –through the parallel juxtapposition of the personal confessions of the women and their collective cry for dignity on the one hand, and the declarations of the Ministers and the comments on TV news, etc. on the other– is to prove that the actual ruins were not the HIV positive women. The ruins was a political establishment that would collapse a few days later, a media hierarchy more de-legitimised than ever and part of a shattered and fearful society looking for the culprits among the weak people.

The case of the HIV-positive women does not belong to the past. Not only because justice has not yet been done to the victims of the abuse, not only because Adonis Georgiadis has re-established the decision “to restrict the spread of infectious diseases”, criminalising again the victims of HIV. But because this particular case encapsulates all that followed: the institutionalised tortures, the concentration camps, the murders on the streets. Inside it, we can also see what will follow if something does not change radically: the state, using illness cynically as a policital tool rather than attending to it, biopower filtered by death becoming death politics.

“Ruins”, provides us the most dangerous virus that can oppose these situations. The virus of not forgetting the pilloring, the cynicism, the crime. The ever more needed disease of memory.

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