Friday

13th Dec 2019

Opinion

Romania risks HIV epidemic

Romania's Ministry of Health stands accused of abandoning those who are suffering from the HIV virus as the "anti-retroviral" medical supplies that have been keeping them alive for many years are about to run out. In addition, the needle exchange programme that has been supplying thousands of injecting drug users in Bucharest is about to end.

"We are extremely alarmed by information from Romania" wrote the EU HIV/Aids Civil Society Forum, an advisory body set up by the European Commission on 22 April, "the supply of anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV is not assured – with some patients having treatment interruption of over a month now, and patients living in rural areas travelling to the capital to queue up in front of the main hospital to obtain treatment."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Until recently, Romania had dealt with its HIV epidemic relatively well. One of the surprise discoveries that emerged after Romania's bloody 1989 revolution was the large number of children who had been infected with HIV by contaminated blood since 1986. Many of these children have been kept alive by the supply of antiretroviral drugs since the early 1990s – a success story that is about to come to a sorry end.

With budget cuts, unsustainable debts, striking nurses and uncontrolled corruption, Romania's health service is in a state of disintegration. Supplies of regular drugs are running out in many hospitals, surgeons have to cancel urgent operations due to shortages, and doctors are emigrating. Other EU member states (including Bulgaria) have prioritised the treatment of people with HIV. Not so in Romania, where the government even ignored help from Germany under the "Affordable Medicine Initiative" which would have led to a cut price supply of antiretroviral drugs.

"It it is very regrettable that Romania did not act upon the support offered by the affordable medicines initiative put forward by the German authorities based on the Bremen Declaration. Whatever the reasons and details that have led to this untenable situation in Romania, the current situation constitutes a clear breach not only of the national commitments but also of the European Convention of Human Rights Article 3.1," the advisors' letter reads.

Compounding the problem is the threatened closure of Bucharest's "needle exchange" programme, a service that supplies just under half of the city's injecting drug users with clean syringes, needles and other essential supplies. The programme is run by six Romanian NGOs and is co-ordinated by the Romanian Angel Appeal, an NGO set up after the 1989 revolution by Livia Harrison, ex-wife of the famous Beatle. An estimated 7,300 drug users – consisting mainly of sex workers, street children and vulnerable roma men and women – use the service, which has been remarkably successful at keeping HIV levels down. It is also very cost effective, costing just €2 per addict per month.

For many years, funding for the needle exchange programme came from the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but this source will dry up at the end of June. According to Valentin Simionov, coordinator of Romania's Harm Reduction Network, "medical experts and donors have repeatedly warned Romanian authorities about the high risk of an HIV epidemic, but no measures for supporting these services has been initiated by central or local authorities."

Rupert Wolfe Murray is the central and east European representative of Castle Craig Hospital, a drugs rehab centre in Scotland.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Stakeholder

Ending HIV/AIDS: A tale of two Europes

World AIDS Day (Sunday 1 December) is both a time to celebrate the advancements across western Europe and a time for decisive action to address disparities in HIV care in eastern Europe and central Asia.

European shipping's dirty secret

As the EU launches its flagship Green Deal, the Greens call for shipping emissions to be included in carbon targets. Ships carrying goods to and from the UK emitted more CO2 than all the cars in Britain's 15-largest cities.

News in Brief

  1. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  2. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  3. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  4. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  5. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  6. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality
  7. Czech PM: nuclear energy needed for climate neutrality
  8. Hungary: Climate target is burden, EU should help

EU investment bank 'wide open to abuse by fraudsters'

Fundamental reforms are needed if the EIB is to become more accountable, democratic and transparent. Establishing a firm grasp on corruption to ensure that public money no longer feeds corrupt systems is a vital first step.

European beekeeping in crisis

Europe's bee population is dying. The number of pollinator species threatened by extinction is increasing each year, and human activity is the main cause.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  2. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  3. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  4. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  5. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  6. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks
  7. Europe needs to make mind up on relations with Africa
  8. Leaders face crucial EU summit for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us