European human rights court condemns Greece for naming HIV-positive sex workers

European human rights court condemns Greece for naming HIV-positive sex workers

Several of the women identified in public have died since the original 2012 case.

The case was brought to the Strasbourg, France-based court by 11 Greek women, 10 of whom had been arrested and charged with intentionally attempting to inflict serious bodily harm by allegedly having unprotected sex with customers.

Трубочисты Петербурга

The 11th woman was not in fact a sex worker, but was identified as one after being mistaken for her sister. Five of the case’s original petitioners have since died.

The court found that Greek authorities had violated the privacy of two women by forcibly subjecting them to blood tests, and of four of the women by publishing their personal details. It awarded a total of €70,000 in damages.

«The information disseminated concerned the applicants’ HIV-positive status, disclosure of which was likely to dramatically affect their private and family life, as well as social and employment situation, since its nature was such as to expose them to opprobrium and the risk of ostracism,» the court said in a news release about the ruling.

The prosecutor who ordered the publication of the women’s personal information «had not examined … whether other measures, capable of ensuring a lesser degree of exposure for the applicants, could have been taken,» it added.


In the run-up to Greece’s 2012 elections, the country’s health minister at the time, Andreas Loverdos, championed a crackdown on unlicensed brothels following a spike in reported HIV cases. He had warned of an increase in the incidence of customers having unprotected sex with prostitutes for an additional fee.

Prostitution is legal in Greece, with sex workers required to get regular health checks.

As part of the crackdown, women were rounded up from illegal brothels and streets and forced to undergo HIV testing at police stations.

Criminal charges were filed against more than 30 women, with authorities publishing the personal details, photos and HIV status of most of them, along with the accusation that they had deliberately endangered their clients by having sex without condoms.

Several of the women involved have since died, including one who was reported to have taken her own life.


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