People in Greece Are Not Actually Giving Themselves HIV for Welfare Money

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Photo: Daily Mail

Conservative media, including the Daily Mail and the Drudge Report, pounced yesterday on the insane-sounding stat that said “about half” of new HIV cases in Greece are “self-inflicted” in order to obtain the country's €700-a-month benefits, with Rush Limbaugh declaring that that’s “what the welfare state does to people.” There’s nothing like a study full of numbers to confirm one’s biases. But it turns out that this one, from the World Health Organization, was totally wrong, and was the result of a massive “editing error.” Oops.

The sentence in question read, “H.I.V. rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new H.I.V. infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug substitution programmes.” It was supposed to say, “about half of infections are due to needle injection, some of which is deliberate self-infection.”

But even “a few” is dubious: The WHO report cites another study that mentions self-inflicted HIV, which itself cites another study. Actually, come to think of it, that’s probably good enough for Limbaugh.