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The World Health Organization has backtracked after it initially said half of new HIV infections in Greece were “self-inflicted” in order to claim benefits.

A regional report suggested that Greeks were knowingly injecting themselves with HIV, allowing them to receive benefits worth approximately €700 (£585) each month.

But the WHO has now apologised, issuing a correction claiming an editing error for its mistake which involved a sourced journal article from 2011.

A statement said: “WHO recognises that there is no evidence suggesting that ‘deliberate self-infection with HIV’ goes beyond few, anecdotal cases.”

Greece’s HIV rates have soared over the last decade, with a 52% increase in infections in 2011 compared to the previous year.

The original report, titled “Review of social determinants and the health divide in the WHO European region”, included a case study which focused on the Greek financial crisis.

In it, it stated: “HIV rates and heroin uses have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug-substitution programmes.”

However, the WHO says that should have stated: “Half of the new HIV cases are self-injecting and out of them few are deliberately inflicting the virus.”

The statement went on to say that the sources were from reports from the journal Lancet, which mentioned “accounts of deliberate self-infliction by a few individuals”.

This phrase was confused with the infection increase whilst the report was being edited according to the WHO.

It continued: “The reasons for this increase remain multifaceted and WHO welcomes efforts… to fully understand the underlying reasons.”

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