Desperate Greek citizens are intentionally infecting themselves with the HIV, in a bid to qualify for benefits which are given to sufferers of the killer virus, a report has claimed.
A World Health Organization report has revealed what it calls a 'significant rise' in the number of sufferers between 2007 and 2009, when the European financial crisis brought the country's economy to its knees.
The number of reported new infections then continued to soar, from 22 in 2010 to 245 in 2011, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Shockingly, the research said around half of new cases could be self-inflicted by drug addicts who want to cash in on welfare handouts.
In Greece, HIV carriers are entitled to a state benefit of 700 Euros per month as well as access to drug substitution programmes which can help battle the illness.
A European Union-funded injection site, the first of its kind in Greece, has also been opened in a run-down part of central Athens in October this year.
Addicts are paid small sums of money for visiting the facility and providing data for anonymous surveys, as well as returning to pick up their HIV test results.
The WHO report cited a piece of work by the country's Mental Health Research Institute in 2011 which noted 'the well-founded suspicion' that some problem drug users 'are intentionally infected with HIV, because of the benefit that are entitled to approximately 1,400 euros every two months.'
The claims show the shocking effect of the Greek fiscal meltdown which is filtering down from big business and banks to ordinary citizens
The report also found that the economic crisis could be related to a sharp rise in suicide, which soared by 17 per cent in Greece between 2007 and 2009 and then another 25 per cent in 2010.
As the crisis deepened in the first half of 2011, suicide attempts surged again by 40 per cent.
When the report was compiled in autumn of this year, Greek unemployment stood at 26.9 per cent.
Despite the existence of a drug benefit being linked to rising cases, drug experts have urged governments to exclude drug-abuse treatment from austerity budget cuts.
Thomas Kattau, a Council of Europe official said: 'There are alarming figures in Greece. So I think it's very important that vulnerable people are targeted for treatment.'
Kattau said program like the injection-zone had been regarded as successful in Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries, as well as Canada.
He added: 'The experience in those countries shows they don't use to the money to buy drugs, but things like hygiene products. So it puts them on a road to recovery.
'In the end the goal is to stop the spread of HIV-Aids. Every euro invested into drug treatment is an investment to public health and public safety.