Sunday, December 23, 2007

Romania voices HIV/AIDS victims’ struggles

20 Dec 2007 12:27:10 GMT

Thousands of Romanians were sensitized to the struggles HIV positive persons face each day as a result of activities organized by World Vision to commemorate World AIDS Day in December. In Romania there are approximately 12,000 persons living with HIV, according to the Health Ministry National Commission to Fight Against AIDS.

'We believe World AIDS Day is an important time to draw people's attention to this epidemic and to sensitize the community to the HIV/AIDS problem,' said Cristina Marin, Together for Health Project coordinator, World Vision Valcea Area Development Program (ADP).

In Valcea city, 210 km northwest of the capital city Bucharest, World Vision raised community awareness and sensitivity to persons living with AIDS through the 'Say 'No' to Discrimination!' campaign, in honor of both World AIDS Day and the International Day of Disabled Persons, also in December. Flyers and advocacy materials were distributed to the community and a red ribbon, the symbol of solidarity of people living with AIDS, was hung in the middle of a major shopping center. Two days later, community members arranged candles and red ribbon, and released balloons.

Volunteers made a red ribbon from candles and grouped together to form a human red ribbon at an event that honored those who have died of AIDS.

In Constanta, 190 km east of Bucharest, World Vision organized a round table where media representatives were informed on HIV/AIDS. In addition, World Vision staff and volunteers shared their work with HIV positive persons and personal messages from HIV infected youth who participate in World Vision's 'Together for Future' project in Constanta County.

At the roundtable, media representatives learned that HIV positive persons are legally considered people with disabilities, a fact of which even most local authorities are ignorant. Local authorities are poorly informed of HIV/AIDS and believe laws protecting people with disabilities only apply to people with physical or mental impairments. Hence, laws that protect the rights of persons with disabilities are seldom enforced for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, many banks are unaware that HIV positive people are legally considered disabled and do not offer HIV positive people and their families special loans for which people with disabilities are eligible. For example, the families of HIV positive children, teenagers and youth are qualified to access a type of loan supported by the State to purchase items to support their special needs.

In Romania, people living with HIV/AIDS suffer discrimination and lack of opportunity due to their condition. In some cases managers unlawfully require new employees to undergo a medical review, even though such a review is unnecessary for employment and new employees' medical conditions are irrelevant to the position(s).

HIV positive youth are separated from HIV negative youth in schools due to the public's ignorance of how HIV is transmitted and indifference towards the disease and those who suffer from it. Parents and teachers are particularly reluctant to allow HIV positive students to study at the same desks as HIV negative students.

Also, children with HIV/AIDS frequently miss school due to extended periods of hospitalization, causing many of them to not begin high school until they are 18-19 years old. Romanian law forbids children's registration in a daily education program if the children are two or more years older than the age level of the class in which they want to register, which means that many HIV positive children are 'too old' to enrol in school. Some of these children resort to studying during the evening and weekend in order to complete their education, though it takes them longer to finish school this way. In addition, HIV positive children do not benefit from coaching, long distance education or special lectures that may help them recuperate because such programs are in small supply and frequently inaccessible to people living with HIV.

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