Safe sex and stigma in Thessaloniki

World Aids Day Red Ribbon Sign with some Latex Condoms.

“The sexual urge is the most violent of our desires: the desire of all our desires”

Arthur Schopenhauer

The habits and traditions of a certain society regarding sexuality and its expression are an essential part of it. Over the course of history, the perception of them changed significantly. The so-called “sexual revolution” that started in the US in the 60’s subsequently spread over most of the world, giving a significant boost to the development of several sex-related issues.

Different factors can influence an individual when it comes to sexuality. May it be his family, his religion or his circle of friends. A frequent debate in the last years has been the role of public education in sexual development. It is undeniable that young generations need to learn how to live a safe and healthy sexual life, and a proper sex education program could be a significant part of it. Nevertheless, the taboos about the topic still prevent many countries from including it in the curricula of their schools. Greece is one of them, as there is no compulsory sex education program.

The Balkan Hotspot team, in collaboration with Thessaloniki Checkpoint, decided to carry on a research about the sexual habits of young greeks, interviewing mainly young students from Thessaloniki.

Sexuality in Greece

As for many other things, even when it comes to sexuality, Greece is a country of contradictions. There are still many prejudices and taboos related to sexuality, perhaps partly due to the strong influence of the orthodox church. At the same time, many young greeks are frequent costumers of strip clubs and peep shows. Activities that in several other countries are considered a bad case of sexual objectification. Prostitution is legal in organized brothels, yet illegal sex work is still booming.

Safe Sex and testing

safe sex
“Do you usually practice safe sex?”

Most of the interviewed claimed to usually practice safe sex. Almost all of them indicated the risk of an undesired pregnancy as one of the biggest reason for prevention. A lesser part stated the fear of STDs and HIV. When it comes to the minority who confessed not to practice safe sex, most of them were in a stable relationship. The rest claimed to hate condoms, as their use decreases the pleasure of the intercourse.

safe sex
“Have you ever been tested for STDs?”

When asked if they had ever got tested for HIV or other STDs, the result was almost a tie. Many admitted that they had never thought about it, or that they thought it was simply not necessary. Nevertheless, a significant part of the interviewed had already got tested. They recognized the importance of regular check-ups when sexually active.

HIV and Stigma

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“Would you have a relationship with a HIV positive person?”

When asked if they would have ever considered a relationship, or even simple intercourse with a HIV-positive person, the greatest part of the interviewed answered negatively. Most of them claimed to be afraid of the illness, and considered a possible relationship “dangerous”.

A lesser part claimed not to discriminate between HIV-positive people and the rest. Not many were aware of the recent discoveries about HIV, the most important of them being the so-called “U=U”: Undetectable=Untransmittable. People living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load (the amount of HIV virus in their blood) by submitting to antiretroviral therapy cannot sexually transmit the virus to others. At the same time, the therapy avoids the last stage of the illness, AIDS. Thus allowing the HIV positive person to have a perfectly normal life.

Thessaloniki Checkpoint

Especially regarding this last topic, the overall impression is that there is still great misinformation. Many young greeks fail to get the importance of prevention and still hold many prejudices when it comes to HIV.

Since 2014 a section of the association “Checkpoint” is active in Thessaloniki. The Checkpoint centre offers the possibility of fast testing for HIV, hepatitis B and C. In addition to that, they dedicate to divulge information about HIV and sexual diseases.

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Post Author: Valerio Vagnoni

A 29-years-old from Rome, Italy. My main interests are languages and translation, history, art, traveling and literature. Greatly curious by nature and unable to settle down in one place, I am constantly looking for new experiences and things to learn.

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