Mitsotakis: Breaking the AIDS stereotypes and healing the social scars of stigma

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The Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a meeting with representatives of the Hellenic Patients’ Association on Tuesday, at the Maximos Palace, on the occasion of the World AIDS Day, today, December 1st.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister announced the decision of the government to legislate the full integration in the intangible electronic prescription of HIV-positive patients receiving antiretroviral treatment and to allow the admission of citizens infected with HIV or hepatitis B and follow specific treatment, in the context of the policy to remove all discrimination against HIV-positive people and to facilitate their treatment.

At the same time, Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that the government will institutionalize the role of organized associations that represent patients in terms of their cooperation with the state.

“The fact that we vote for important regulations in Parliament has its own special semiology. The first is the possibility for our HIV-positive fellow citizens to have the opportunity to have children, as long as they receive the appropriate treatment, something that made a great impression on me that it had not already been treated. As, of course, the electronic prescription is very important, which will now apply to all those who follow antiretroviral therapies. These two interventions are important. They will be voted tomorrow and are only part of a comprehensive plan to address these issues “, stressed Kyriakos Mitsotakis during the meeting.

The Prime Minister stressed that, despite the medical leaps that have been made to treat the disease, which have made it a manageable disease, “unfortunately what is left is still quite remnants and quite stereotypes from the past. It is our duty to break them so that, in addition to the valuable medical care and treatment, we also heal the social scars of stigma that belong to another era. I dare say in another century “.

Cooperation with Civil Society

At the same time, recognizing the essential role that Civil Society can play in the design of health policies with a human-centered approach and strategic horizon, the government plans to establish the Hellenic Patients Association as a Social Partner.

This will ensure the close cooperation of the state with the citizens and will define the legal framework that will allow such bodies to contribute to the design, support and evaluation of health policies from the point of view of society, in order to defend and the promotion of public health.

“The key message is that our interests are aligned in the sense that the patient, the citizen, must be at the heart of modern health policies,” he said. “Our goal is to institutionalize the Association of Greek Patients as the official Social Partner of the state in matters of health. We want sensitized patients, who can have the first say in the issues that concern them “, he added, adding that the lessons from the pandemic can prove valuable for the radical improvement of the NSS, with the help of the patients themselves.

“As we face the great challenges of the pandemic at the same time, it is a unique opportunity – as I have said many times – to make very bold interventions in the National Health System. Starting with public health and prevention, moving on to primary care, how to make our hospitals better, what happens after a patient leaves the hospital. And in all this we want you as partners. “As I do not think that there is a more substantial intervention in the public debate than that of someone who is personally aware of his problem”, the Prime Minister underlined.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis also stressed that the resources saved by the improvement of the health system will be invested again in Health. “Our purpose is not, through the reduction of waste and sometimes corruption in Health, to support our fiscal policy as a whole. “Our goal is to free up resources that we can use to finance the health system itself in a healthy, correct, technocratic and fair way,” he said.

The meeting was attended by the Minister of Health Thanos Plevris, the Minister of State Akis Skertsos, the former President and current First Vice President of the Hellenic Patients Association, Katerina Koutsogianni and the new President of the Association and President of the Association of HIV-positive people .

“We find out through our contact with the Minister that there is really a special sensitivity and we want to believe that your government is the one that will do what we all really envision, years now. “It has to do with taking into account the patient’s position, the patient’s point of view, in decision making”, said Ms. Koutsogianni.

“It was very pleasant for us when you acknowledged and found out with your statements, something that, of course, you certainly knew anyway, that health is not an expense, it is an investment and a condition for social and economic life. So, we believe that as a society we have to win a bet, to have the most efficient Health System and the fairest possible “, said Mr. Dedes.

The Hellenic Patients’ Association, which was founded in May 2019 and now consists of 65 patient associations and organizations from all over Greece, is already represented in the Central Health Council and the Committee of Public Health Experts.

As stated by the Minister of Health during the meeting, the representation of the Union in the new central body of health supplies (EKAPY) has been launched, which is established by a draft law of the Ministry of Health. “You also enter the EKAPY part as an interlocutor. EKAPY is within the body of the scientific body that will propose for the supplies of the Ministry of Health. It is given an opportunity as a Union to be able to have a say in the specifications and in all the discussion that takes place “, said Mr. Plevris.

Vaccination protects our fellow human beings

During the meeting, the importance of coronavirus vaccination was also highlighted, as it shields public health and protects citizens suffering from underlying or chronic diseases, thus making them more vulnerable.

“Last Thursday we had a very big press conference in relation to the vaccination. He hugged with great interest. “The patients themselves came out and called on the world to be vaccinated, because we are the first to be exposed to the virus”, noted Ms. Koutsogianni.

“We have to thank the Patients’ Union of Greece, it is one of the few civil society organizations that made a very worthwhile campaign in favor of vaccination, which had content, had the right messages. “Unfortunately, while many are talking about a campaign and an effort to mobilize in favor of vaccination, few have done so, and you are one of these organizations”, said, among others, the Minister of State Akis Skertsos.

The entire introductory position of the Prime Minister

I am very glad to welcome you today at the Maximos Palace, as tomorrow is World AIDS Day. And our generation was stigmatized by HIV perhaps more than any other and changed its behavior at a time when being infected with the virus was essentially signing a notarial deed of death.

But since then science has made great strides, to the point that today we are talking about a chronic, completely manageable disease, provided that the right treatments are given.

But, unfortunately, what is still left are several remnants and several stereotypes from the past, which it is our duty to break so that, in addition to valuable medical care and treatment, we also heal the social scars of stigma that belong to another time. I dare say in another century.

And I’m glad that we have a national action plan on HIV / AIDS, but we do not expect – as you know – its full implementation once and for all. We are making a series of arrangements that I think are of particular importance to our fellow citizens who are HIV-positive.

In fact, I think, the fact that tomorrow we will vote on important regulations in Parliament has its own special semiology. The first is the possibility for our HIV-positive fellow citizens to have the opportunity to have children, as long as they receive the appropriate treatment, something that made me very impressed that it had not already been treated. As, of course, is very important the electronic prescription that will apply, now, to all those who follow antiretroviral therapies.

These two interventions are important. They will be voted on tomorrow and are only part of a comprehensive plan to address these issues.

But I am also happy because we are meeting a man I did not meet when we first met the “Positive Voice”, Nikos Dedes, who had done such a great job and had made me personally aware of many of these issues that I now have the opportunity – in my current capacity – to be able to deal with.

And I consider very important the fact that he will now take the helm of the Hellenic Patients Association. To thank Ms. Koutsogianni for what she offered. And I am sure that our cooperation will become even more fruitful from now on.

Our goal is to institutionalize the Hellenic Patients’ Association as the official social partner of the state in matters of health. We want sensitized patients who can have the first say in the issues that concern them. We want these patients to be represented in a serious and responsible way, through the submission of proposals. I have seen the proposals that you have submitted, which I find quality, logical and harmonized with the direction in which we also want to move.

In fact, now, as we face the great challenges of the pandemic at the same time, it is a unique opportunity – as I have said many times – to make very bold interventions in the National Health System. Starting with public health and prevention, moving on to primary care, how to make our hospitals better. What happens after a patient leaves the hospital.

And in all this we want you as partners. As I do not think that there is a more substantial intervention in the public debate than that of someone who is personally aware of his problem.

So, welcome.

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