Bucharest — Romania's Senate speaker on Wednesday called on the culture minister to quit after he complained that the country was spending too much in the fight against AIDS.
In comments on Monday that sparked outrage, Culture Minister Daniel Barbu said he "could not help wonder how many Shakespeare festivals could be organised if the (anti-AIDS) programme did not exist or if its budget was halved".
Senate speaker Crin Antonescu said the only conscientious step for Barbu was to resign.
"Strong men with a conscience can step down" without their resignation being "a shame or dishonour", said Antonescu, who heads the National Liberal Party to which Barbu too belongs.
UNOPA, an association supporting people affected by HIV/AIDS condemned the remarks as of "major offence to patients and to the experts fighting to save their lives".
Barbu later apologised for his comments.
Funding this year for the estimated 12,000 people in Romania living with HIV stood at 45 million euros ($61.7 million), down from 52 million euros in 2012, and was "a far cry from the patients' needs", UNOPA said.