It was a total blockbuster story, but there was one small problem: It was all lies. It only took about 24 hours of real investigative journalism to upend the assertion, because of course hundreds of Greek people weren't giving themselves HIV. Fox Business jabbed a condemning finger at the WHO, because they really didn't need any help looking like idiots, at which point the WHO scrambled to retract their whole "AIDS? More Like 'Made In The Shades" expose.
It turns out that one sentence in the WHO report -- the one about half of all HIV cases being self-inflicted -- was quoting another report in The Lancet. Meanwhile, that Lancet report was itself quoting a third report by an organization called the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Problem was, every time the passage got re-quoted, it became more and more inflammatory.
The original report read: "An additional factor the committee believed worth considering is the well-founded suspicion that some problem users are intentionally infected with HIV." But there was no data attached to that claim; it was nothing but a suspicion some committee had. Then, when The Lancet quoted that report, the assertion became: "An authoritative report described accounts of deliberate self-infection by a few individuals to obtain access to benefits of 700 euro per month and faster admission onto drug substitution programmes." That escalation finally mutated into the WHO's weirdly specific: "HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of 700 euro per month and faster admission on to drug-substitution programmes."
So the claim went from "Our committee has this crazy hunch that somewhere out there, some lazy Greek bastard is giving himself HIV in exchange for $1,000 a month" to "An authoritative study proves that some Greek people give themselves HIV for drugs and money" to "HALF OF ALL GREEK PEOPLE ARE GIVING THEMSELVES HIV, THE RATS ARE IN THE CORN, ABANDON ALL HOPE."
J.C. Breen lives and works in New York City. If you liked this article, be sure to follow this here link to his website, where you can dig through his more alienating, less financially viable work.
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