To be a photographer.
I love photography. – What would you like to shoot? – Places, people… moments… images… – Have you tried?
– Yes. – Since I was little,
I had a camera in my hand. – And what were you shooting? – Everything. Little kids playing, a passerby a beautiful flower… I’d go to different places
in the village, waterfalls… the mountainside, the sea
and I’d photograph landscapes. It’s stunning, it’s very beautiful. Earlier today, photographs
were made public of the 20-year-old Russian prostitute from
an illegal brothel on Acharnon Street who suffers from AIDS. Evidence confirms information that
her clients numbered in the hundreds. The 22-year-old Russian
charged with the felony of grievous bodily harm with intent did not convince legal authorities
when she declared she didn’t know she was HIV positive and
she was led to Korydallos prison. Ladies and gentlemen, we now come to
the sensational case of the young Russian who was arrested after it was determined
that despite being HIV-positive she worked in an illegal brothel
and even had intercourse with her clients without precautions. We now go to Christina
Nicolaidou in the news room because of very serious developments. Three more HIV-positive
prostitutes were located today. – Exactly, Sia, as was expected… – It’s not three people but eleven. – Eleven?
– Out of how many health checks? There were 130 checks on prostitutes
and 12 were found to be HIV positive. – Very large number. There were 96 detentions from
various parts of central Athens particularly the old, historic center. Those who had intercourse with them must contact KEELPNO immediately. Elli, may I give the names?
– Of course. There is a massive, random sweep operation and hundreds of women are rounded up
and forced to undergo health checks mostly from places
frequented by drug addicts and not, as far as we know, from brothels,
legal or illegal. And hundreds of women undergo
forced health checks without their consent,
inside police stations. As for their HIV-positive diagnosis it’s not used for treatment or admission to a hospital or any medical purpose but instead,
as evidence for a criminal prosecution. It’s quite clear. From the way events unfolded it became obvious that it was
a political game, a pre-election campaign where nobody cared about
who would bear the human cost. I think that’s obvious. It was a pre-election campaign by the
ministers who were then candidates. The responsibility lies with the
Ministries of Public Order and Health with KEELPNO (Center for Disease Control
and Prevention) which gave out data and with the mass media. AIDS. Some have called it a health bomb
and that’s exactly what it’s proven to be. – And you are continuing with
the health checks, correct? – Health checks continue unabated… It was 5 o’clock in the morning.
I was going to get something to eat. I was at the traffic light,
going to get food. In the center of Athens. A police car pulled over. He asked me where I was going. I said,
“I’m going to go get something to eat” and he said I had to follow him and
go in for a simple identification. I followed him we then went to a basement,
where they gave us the test and I was found HIV positive. “You have the AIDS virus.” That’s all.
They didn’t tell me anything more. I had used drugs and they
came to Omonoia Square. They said, just like they told all the girls,
that we were going for identification. He called me, I sat at the desk and they said, “we’re going to have a test.”
“Of course,” I said. They pricked my finger with a machine, we did the test they called me again
and told me I had HIV. Then they took blood from the main artery.
That’s all. And we were taken to prison. Yes, it was a Sunday we were on leave and the phones started ringing
like crazy at the group. Something had happened we needed to confirm whether
it was true or not there were police sweep operations
targeting HIV-positive women. We were at a medical
conference and the issue was raised by a medical
student at the meeting. We were essentially talking
about the ethics of quarantine state security and public health
and just then a young medical student said,
“they just arrested women for being HIV-positive.” “What are we talking about here, whether
they’ll release their data or not?” “The face of a young Russian has
already been posted online.” At home. I saw it on TV and I went nuts.
I wondered how this could happen. I was calling TV channels
to condemn what they were doing. In the main sweep operation, the big one,
where we had the first 29 women they arrested 96 women and tested 96 women,
of whom 29 tested positive. Hundreds of women were rounded up,
according to the data in the case file but they detained and prosecuted
those who were HIV positive who were about 30 over various sweeps on different days. It was the strangest,
most shocking thing we’ve experienced in the 20 years that
our organization has been active. For the first time ever,
we saw HIV being criminalized and human souls, human
situations and “human ruins” exposed in this fashion on television. This girl is 21 years old. From Russia… with AIDS… HIV positive… She wasn’t using protection.
She had sex freely with people, as many people said.
She claims she was using precautions… I cannot forget the first woman.
I can’t wipe her face from my memory because she was almost smiling. I wonder
whether she understood at the time what they were planning to do to her.
I can’t imagine she could conceive even the slightest
part of what was to follow. The 22-year-old prostitute claimed “I deny the charges.
I didn’t know I had AIDS.” “I found out when I was arrested.
I feel well and have no symptoms.” “I will not practice this profession any more.
My treatment comes first.” However, the doctor who examined
her and spoke with her first had a different take on the matter. – She stated that she had
been diagnosed in Russia. These individuals perform sex for money. Ten are of Greek origin, one is
from Russia and one from Bulgaria. – Ten out of eleven are Greek? – We must also consider those
girls who come from Africa who work as prostitutes whether because of voodoo
or other reasons. Most of them are Greek, which
demonstrates the scale of the problem. They were Greek. More than 70 percent, I believe, if not 80. Yes, it was a targeting
failure as we say in legal terms it didn’t work out as planned. It happened just before the elections which were crucial for saving the country according to the mass media
and the political leadership. I felt that we hit rock bottom that we couldn’t sink any lower. It was the most despicable thing to do. We’ve hit rock bottom as a country,
we can’t sink any lower. I fell down to my knees. I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t know.
My last test showed I was clean. I lost the world, my life. I was desperate. Because I have a child and I didn’t know.
I said, “I’m gonna die.” That was my first thought. I said, “you’re taking me to prison.
I’m sick, alright, I didn’t know” “but now I’m going to prison for that?” And they said, “whatever
the prosecutor says.” – Let’s start from the beginning.
Suddenly, there’s an operation against illegal prostitution
in downtown Athens. – Yes, six days before the elections,
prostitution is being restricted. Finally. Out of the overall mess
that is our public sector let’s look at what’s happening
with sex services in our city. Terror and panic have overtaken those who visited illegal brothels. – Mr Liapis, they’re not in brothels, they’re
in the red light district, on the street? – They are on the street,
in illegal brothels and in hotels around the historic center of Athens.
– I see. – We should criminalize this behavior, Minister?
– Yes, that’s what I’m proposing. – Unprotected sex?
– Unprotected sex and sex with women,
who are illegal prostitutes. We started to realize that one after
the other, the women arrested bore no relation to what
we’d call a sex worker. Some were homeless others in a state of heavy, advanced
and longstanding drug addiction. Of the women who were imprisoned none, except for one were prostitutes. Except for the first one
they caught in a brothel none of the others was a prostitute. So nobody was interested in addressing what
was happening in the streets of Athens. They were interested in finding HIV-positive
women, who happened to be there. Nobody knows whether they
were prostitutes or not none of them were caught with
a client or taking money. Just round up some women and fit them
to whatever scenario they had in mind. How do you verify prostitution? You see a woman in a dreadful state,
dragging her feet along the pavement. Is it a given that this
woman is a prostitute? Felony. All the girls were charged with a felony.
The prosecutor gave the order to publicize the names and
photos of these women so that men could know whether they
had had intercourse with them but also the reverse so that men who had been with prostitutes and have panicked could now relax. In the vast majority of the
cases, the charges were serial grievous bodily harm with intent in combination with the attempt
to commit the same crime. A very heavy charge, a felony. This felony of grievous
bodily harm with intent I think we all understand what it means. Having sex with someone
not for pleasure or money or any other reason
but to transmit the virus. Is there any proof that they
infected anyone with HIV? No such evidence was given. Nobody
came forward to say, “I was infected” or “I went with that
woman and was at risk.” So the charge is difficult to prove. There never was an accusation from anyone
to say, “this woman had sex with me” “asked me not to use a condom” “and, being a man, I didn’t” “therefore she intended
to infect me with HIV.” What I find saddest of all
is that most of these girls had marks on their arms and legs tattoos, horrible teeth. Who is this peace-loving citizen? That’s what we heard on
TV in the early days that they wanted to protect family men,
that’s why the prosecutor intervened. Who is this Mr Familyman,
who picks up a girl whose drug problem is
obvious from miles away and then says “here’s another 10 euros
for sex without a condom.” And then he’d have the nerve to
say, “the girl infected me?” The health bomb of AIDS-carrying
prostitutes has exploded. Of the 6,000 men who had contact with them 100 were tested in the disease
control and prevention units. Five were found to have the AIDS virus. 5 out of 100 is a big percentage. Out of 400 tested during that period
none was found positive. As for KEELPNO which encouraged people to get tested the peace-loving family men
who panicked after the announcement it declared it found 5 HIV-positive men. Some of us asked for their details but they were not given to us. Welcome. I’ll begin with Mr Liapis and I’ll say that KEELPNO has done exceptional work in a very
short period but… The Center for Disease Control and Prevention,
KEELPNO, strongly defended all this. It commissioned a poll on public opinion about the handling of the case and the results were, supposedly that 80 per cent approved. If the law, if common sense and science permit doctors and scientists who perform a vital public health function to rely on opinion polls,
to act with publicity in mind… well, that’s astonishing. The procedures were cursory,
even provocative. HIV tests were given in mobile street units and
unfortunately, in police stations as well. It later became obvious that test results were given not only to the women but to police officers who were present. A doctor should not go to the police
station to perform a medical act. Many of the women told us they
weren’t asked for their consent. At least four of them who came here confided in us that it took them
a month to realize what had happened. Others were in such a state that
even if consent had been asked their mental state was so fuzzy
from drugs and withdrawal that they couldn’t have consented. According to their accounts on the night of April 30,
around Omonoia Square they put 200 women inside a police van who were crying and shouting. They told them, “relax, we’ll
give you a rapid test.” These are quick HIV tests where
you get the result in 20 minutes. We don’t consider the saliva test
100% accurate. “Those who test positive will be taken into custody.
Those who test negative can go.” «at the stake» I was at the Evelpidon court complex when these women appeared
in front of a judge. “Dragged.” That’s the right word. With sedatives to suppress
their withdrawal symptoms without lawyers,
not knowing what’s going on. All they heard was that they
had been publicly exposed. The police officers escorting them wore gloves. We went inside and saw the clerks wearing masks. If in 2012, that doesn’t constitute utter
ignorance in how HIV is transmitted please tell me what does. We were outside Evelpidon with banners several organizations. We were shouting that “the witch-hunt must end.” I remember the front page of ESPRESSO with a full-page photo of the first woman and a headline that read, “she spread death”
or something of the sort. On the Greek police website there were mug shots.
Head-on, profile, full body name, surname, place of birth,
father’s name, mother’s name… I couldn’t look at the photos.
It seemed extraordinary. How can you put up a photo charge someone, a woman without evidence? It’s literally putting
someone at the stake, right? We put her on public view,
in the central square and we stone her, we hang her,
we burn her. It was wrongfully attributed to us and particularly, during the pre-election
discourse it took vulgar dimensions by vulgar people, who said that
we were the ones handling these people’s identity. We perform the checks as we
always do for the disease. Beyond that, the prosecutor
takes over, it’s not our job. Whether photos are published
or not, that’s not our job. Our desire would be to publish those women’s
clients’ photos too. Because finally, Greece must make
the act in question illegal. – I don’t want to take up time– – Andreas, do we know whether this
girl is a trafficking victim? Because she’s a criminal now. – My dear friend, whether she is or not,
she will be made into one. We have two unshakeable
statistical elements. Who aggravates the AIDS problem? Those who transfer it because
they have it when they come to Greece from Third World countries,
and drug addicts. You have two sources– – We must go to a break, Μr Loverdos. – If we don’t close the country’s doors together with Europe because
we cannot close them alone we won’t control this phenomenon. Yes, one of the girls was underage. She was taken in, arrested and
imprisoned on false details which she had given herself. When according to reports, a person
is found in an illegal brothel the first thing that must be investigated
is whether she is a trafficking victim. This didn’t happen, as far as we know.
The exact opposite did. These women were burdened with
the full weight of criminal liability. Proof of that is that one girl who is still in prison is quite obviously
a trafficking and slavery victim. But no one conducted a proper
interview of these people. How did I find out? I was home in the evening
when the phone rang. It was my son who was in the army and he said, “Mom, I’m not well.”
I said, “what’s the matter, my boy?” “Mom, I saw my sister on the internet.” “They’ve charged her with this and that.” “I’m not well, what should I do?” “Come my boy,” I said,
“be patient, be strong.” “Don’t you have a friend? Go for
a coffee until I figure out what to do.” You can imagine the state he was in.
Because all these years, as a mother I tried to make my children who have nothing to do with drug use,
to accept it and their siblings. And on top of all that, they exposed
my daughter’s private affairs. The people who did it,
did so for political reasons. I condemn these people. I’m very sorry that they govern the people and are in the courts and make
decisions that affect others. She called me as soon as I got out
of the polling station to come home and said, “Mom.” “What is it my girl, where
are you, are you well?” And she started crying.
“Mom, listen to me carefully.” I said, “what’s the matter, my child?” “Are you with someone
who’s blackmailing you?” She said, “Mom, I’m in prison.” I said, “why? Did you steal, hit anyone?” “Mom, I’m sick.” “They tested me and told me I have AIDS.” They stopped her. “Where are you going?” “To eat.”
“Come in for identification.” “I’ll give you my ID.”
“No, come in.” My daughter went in and that’s
when our tragedy began. It was found out immediately. Everybody knew. We’d go out and as soon as we walked by they talked among themselves
about my family’s business. They said good morning
and we had to answer. Big rejection. No, her son didn’t see her.
Others told him. He said, “what’s wrong guys?”
They said, “they caught your mom” “and we saw her, that she’s
a whore and has AIDS.” He came here crying. “Grandma, why didn’t you tell me anything?” We went to the police together.
She said, “I lost my ID in Athens” “I just got out of prison.”
I took out her papers from my bag. The officer read them and said, “my girl, you have a warrant.” She says, “for what?
I just got out of prison.” He said that in 2007 and 2008
she committed theft. And they kept her in and
took her to the prison in Thebes and because she had AIDS they took her back to Korydallos. And I have no money to hire a lawyer. God punishes. If you’re not a good person,
God will punish you. They brought her in handcuffs to see her child. I said, “please take them off
so she can hug her child.” They said, “do you know
what I can do to you?” “To me? Do what?” “You can do nothing to me. Take them off.” And all those great
people, who walk proudly… My child didn’t commit a crime. – I didn’t know anything. From the moment they took me in
until I got to prison I knew absolutely nothing. I was freaked out with the whole situation miserable, physically and psychologically. Their attitude, beyond the whole situation was even more upsetting. When it was time to eat, they’d
come with gloves and masks to us 32 girls from this group they had arrested they’d take our bowls from us,
fill them up, then they’d call us at the cell door and give them to us.
Which isn’t the best thing to do. They’d just take the bowls,
fill them up with food and then they would leave, they’d open the
cell door and we’d take them by ourselves. For a month and a half,
they wouldn’t even give us aspirin. There was no cleanliness over there. We were all locked up in our cells. We all tried to do what we could to feel
better, to make the others feel better to give strength. But if you don’t know what’s coming to you what will come of this how you ended up here and the hardship
you’ve been through all these years because you’re a drug user… it’s not a small thing, it’s not
simple, especially for girls. And as far as this issue is concerned I believe that they don’t care about those people,
what will happen to them later what they’ll do later,
how they’ll go out in society later. Maybe they don’t know they don’t think about the consequences that those people will suffer later.
Just so they can do their own thing because I believe that all of this
happened for a few votes. And to me, that they did all this… they made a mistake. Because what they did was no good for their country.
They didn’t broadcast anything good. A lot of girls, we started
cutting ourselves slitting our wrists and that’s
when they started giving us tests. They brought doctors, took us
to the Convicts’ Hospital and began testing us. We didn’t even know what stage
each girl was at whether she needed medication or not. We were abandoned, locked up all the time. They’d always come wearing masks.
They left the food on a bench. Nobody would come near us. Me, I cut my wrists my veins. I couldn’t take it any more. They sent my brothers away from work.
Sudden leaves of absence. They’d go to my mother’s work and say, “is this who you have at the
register or serving cheese pies?” “Her daughter has AIDS.” They sent my child away from school. KEELPNO went to the village and tested her,
to see if she had AIDS. My child. Το see whether my daughter
was clean or not. She’s clean. She told me she didn’t want to have
a mom who’s sick and on the street. My mother, myself and
her dad, we explained that I’m not on the street.
I don’t go with a lot of men. Yes, I’m sick but she shouldn’t be afraid. – They know why. To get some extra votes to sit in a bigger seat? A leather seat? A feather seat? And if they had the strength… because I believe that I and other girls
we have the strength to confront them, to look them in the eye and ask them. I want to see if they can. First of all, I’d ask them why? Why? And then I’d ask them a lot more. When I’m alone, I think about many things but there are moments like this one that I want to tell you very many things
but I can’t. Not because I don’t want to. I can’t. I want to speak properly
and tell it like it is and I can’t. That’s all. That’s all. We will not exit the crisis
without sacrifices. But we are a proud people, with dignity. The Greek people’s dignity… I won’t let these sacrifices go to waste. Τhey’re garbage, they stink. Jobs, growth, justice and security. For the resurrection of the economy,
the society and the nation. They work in the collection of produce,
we have them in our homes but we’re afraid to put all
of these people under health inspection, treatment and in safety in the hands of the police and the State. They roam around here and they’ve degraded and
destroyed the most historic city of Europe: Athens. And let’s finish up with this
stance of abstention and irresponsibility, which we all take
when it comes to big problems. Just as we do with garbage,
which nobody wants outside their door but
we all have outside our doors. So the problem is very simple. What do we want? To have them
in the streets with contagious diseases?
Malaria, tuberculosis… – You were the first one to say it publicly that this is a health bomb. – That’s exactly right. Drugs, illegal prostitutes… such a beautiful place is dead now. The homeless… another big problem. Look at this disabled man. These poor
people must also leave from here. Υes, it was an exceptional speech
by the Health Minister last June at the UN high-level
meeting on HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, I was present.
No one from the Greek team had seen the Minister’s final text. When he went up on the UN podium we were stunned to hear that the people
responsible for HIV/AIDS in Greece are women from sub-Saharan Africa,
who are prostitutes or trafficking victims. This is very far from
the epidemiological picture of HIV/AIDS in Greece even back in 2011. Until then and even today homosexual men are
the main population group. Drug users were added recently but at the time that
wasn’t the case either. Women are a great minority
in HIV/AIDS in Greece so that statement was shocking and also the fact he
blamed it all on Africa. We asked him, stunned, where
he got the information. He replied that he had his own information. I discovered a legal decree from 1940 which gave the Minister
of Health and only him the ability to issue health decrees. Now we’d go with a police escort
so nobody could refuse a health check because it used to be that
the person tested could refuse so we could only offer advice. Now, if they don’t want to,
they’re arrested they’re obliged to want it,
we test them and get these results. The health decree is entirely baseless. The law says that for
such a decree to be issued which can limit freedoms for
reasons of public health to prevent the spread
of infectious diseases there needs to be a collaboration
between four ministers. The Minister of Health
issued it by himself. It recognizes drug users and
sex workers as vulnerable groups and says they must get tested. It doesn’t say anything
about obligation or force. So even the health decree,
which is essentially illegal was a pretext to do something
even further outside of legality. On 25 November 2011
during a press conference on the occasion of the annual
convention for HIV/ AIDS we heard for the first time from then Health Minister Andreas Loverdos that we are threatened by the virus and that it will enter the Greek family
through illegal immigrant female prostitutes. He said, “don’t go back to
your newspapers and write a tiny piece.” “The issue concerns me, it has upset me.” “I was ready to tell my colleagues
to never talk to reporters again” “unless this issue gets
appropriate coverage.” Also present at that press
conference was Mr Marios Lazanas president of the
Hellenic Society for HIV and director of the infectious diseases
unit at the Red Cross Hospital who told us following the Minister’s speech that through the cases that reach him
at the hospital, he has learned that drug users are getting HIV on purpose
in order to get the 600-700 euro disability benefit. On one hand, drug users who get
it on purpose to get the benefit and on the other, women immigrants who will
bring the virus into the Greek family. I want all those responsible for what happened to stand in the dock. To be punished. It’s the only way
I’ll get satisfaction. When such things happen, I feel like
I want to live in another country. I feel disgusted with this system. There have been no consequences for the journalists who chose
to handle the issue with, shall I say, such lightness. There have been no sanctions and if you want my opinion,
there won’t be any. From another account: “I want
those who did this to pay” “because I can’t face my family or my kid” “even though my kid is too
young to understand.” “I can’t imagine what they’re saying about me in my town.
Our photos were everywhere.” “They humiliated the female sex.” “First they humiliated us as women
and then as people.” “I ask the Ministries of
Justice and Public Order” “not to treat us like objects and animals.” “To view us as people
both inside and outside of prison.” Nobody asked for disciplinary action against
those who took part in the process. The Medical Association filed
a report to the prosecutor and the legal case has taken its course. The Greek Association for the Study and
Control of AIDS released a statement to condemn the incident,
after the elections. That’s that. There is a lawsuit on behalf
of some of the victims and non-governmental organizations for all the violations, particularly those of the doctors and police officers. The lawsuit is still at an
early stage of examination. There has been no prosecution
nor has prosecution been rejected. Above all, we are people. We’re not garbage. They shouldn’t treat us like this. Because they treat us like scum. But it’s not right.
We have families, children and it’s unfair. It’s unfair. I hope for a better tomorrow
for my daughter that she finds strength
through me and her child and that she sees that life is sweet life is good and not to walk into death. I have missed out on my childhood. And I did things only for drug use everything for drug use 18 years of use. But just the fact that they’ve accepted me
with love and are by my side that means a lot to me. It’s everything. First of all, there’s no exploitation. There’s only love. That’s all. It’s been a month since
my release and I’m home. I’m home.