24/12/2009 - Thousands of children suffer from HIV/AIDS in Romania today, living out a legacy from years ago.
In Romania today, there are over seven thousand young people aged 15 to 19 living with HIV or AIDS.
The reason for the high number of young people with AIDS reportedly stems from years ago, when blood transfusions were used to treat children with anaemia or suffering from malnutrition, as well as the multiple use of the same syringe by health officials administering the treatments. 5 000 people died before the crisis was contained—although, evidently, the effects continue to linger.
Many of these children face systematic discrimination which prevents them from attending school or even accessing medical treatment. Often, a clear and informative explanation about the disease they carry is not made available to them; sometime, if medical care is available, doctors cannot tell children about their status without parental consent. This can lead to a lack of complete understanding about sexuality issues and can increase the risk of further transmission once the children reach adulthood.
However, Romania maintains an innovative government program that provides free antiretroviral medication to all those in need, and has made progress in reducing mother-to-child transmission, one of the most important means of reducing the number of HIV infections.
Many Romanian children have lost a parent (or both) to AIDS, putting them in an even more vulnerable condition, as they live in institutions, sometimes without adequate protection. Romania is known for the high numbers of orphans in the country, the causes of which can be traced back to anti-contraception regulations in the 1970s and 1980s, which prompted parents to abandon children they could not afford (or were otherwise unable) to keep. Moreover, the deterioration of economic conditions during this time made it difficult for orphanages to provide all necessary services to the children they served. Orphanges and community/family-based care systems (preferred by organization such as UNICEF) have been improved, as this was a precondition for Romania's entry into the European Union.
Globally, at the end of last year, there were two million children that tested positive for HIV. 90% of paediatric cases of AIDS to date have been located in Africa. HIV contributes greatly to the number of paediatric cases of other diseases as well as the overall child mortality rate, a key global indicator of human development.