A prosecutor on Thursday lodged criminal charges of intentionally inflicting grievous bodily harm against five sex workers said to have tested positive for the HIV virus over the past days.
The women are to defend themselves before a magistrate, as the the charge is a felony, and on Friday another 12 sex workers said to be HIV carriers are also to face a magistrate on the same charges.
The developments came as hundreds of male visitors to brothels contacted a helpline to arrange for tests and Health Minister Andreas Loverdos called for the criminalization of unprotected sex with illegal prostitutes.
More than 2,000 men had called the helpline of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KEEL) by late Wednesday to seek advice after having unprotected sex with prostitutes.
Loverdos accused these men of gross negligence and suggested that unprotected sex at illegal brothels should be categorized as a felony.
Loverdos has rebuffed criticism against the authorities for failing to curb the illegal sex trade in central Athens, as well as the illegal drug trade, which is known to have contributed to the spread of HIV. He claimed that municipal police officers had obstructed the work of KEEL mobile units.
Meanwhile the decision to make public the photographs of sex workers alleged to have tested positive for HIV has continued to fuel public outrage, particularly on social networking sites. Authorities have defended the decision, noting that public health overrides individual privacy concerns.