HIV infection has been a public health problem in Romania since the 1990s, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already difficult situation of people vulnerable to HIV infection.

Advocacy campaign of the #SOS_Project Project: Partnership for sustainable policies in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention, carried out by the Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation and its partners, aims to improve financial sustainability and to increase the efficiency of HIV prevention programs in Romania for vulnerable groups. The advocacy campaign is aimed at municipalities with a large number of new HIV cases: Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Sibiu.

Non-governmental organizations Romanian Angel Appeal Foundation, Romanian Health Observatory, ARAS – Romanian Anti-AIDS Association, Social Integration Support Association (ASIS), eQuiVox Association, Identity.Education Association – Identity.Education, Positive Sense Association, MozaiQ LGBT Association, The PARADA Foundation, the Association of Students in Psychology and Sociology from Timișoara, the Organization of Pharmacist Students Sibiu, the Society of Medical Students Hippocrates Sibiu signed an open letter addressed to mayors and local councilors in each city mentioned above, requesting them to allocate dedicated funds in 2021 for HIV prevention services aimed at vulnerable groups. In the context of the project, vulnerable groups are people with risky behaviors (injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, people involved in commercial sex, transgender people and people in prison).

In 2020, there was a sharp decline in the number of new HIV cases, suggesting a collapse in HIV testing rate in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. People infected with HIV who are not aware of this are at risk of transmitting the infection to others. In the absence of urgent measures addressed to groups vulnerable to HIV infection, the COVID-19 pandemic will be followed by a dramatic worsening of the HIV epidemic in Romania.

The total number of new cases of HIV infection, at national level, for the period January 2016 – Dec 2020

At the moment, there is a final grant offered by the Global Fund (GF), which does not include any support for HIV prevention services for vulnerable groups. Funding for this component from GF ended in December 2020. For the past ten years, it has been an almost exclusive source of funding for projects aimed at preventing HIV/AIDS. In these conditions, the task of financing these programs falls into Romanian authorities’ responsibility. Given that local authorities have prerogatives in the field of public health and, moreover, have direct access to information on vulnerable groups in the community, we consider it necessary to involve local public authorities in an area that has been for years neglected in Romania.

According to the organizations that signed the appeal, local public authorities should provide funding for HIV prevention services for vulnerable groups.

These services must include:

  • HIV testing programs;
  • specific programs for vulnerable groups, such as free condoms, harm-reduction programs (offering sterile injection equipment, hepatitis testing, referral to specialized services);
  • counseling and information services.

Along with these services, local funds can be provided for analyzing the local context and identifying the needs of vulnerable groups in the community (note that, for example, in terms of injecting drug users there are data only in Bucharest), but also for programs prevention of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases addressed to the general population, with special attention to young people.

Local and county strategies explicitly mention the need for intervention by local public authorities regarding groups vulnerable to HIV infection. However, budgets for possible measures addressed to these groups have been delayed, making the above-mentioned strategies unapplicable.

In the absence of allocating the necessary funds to continue the actions carried out so far, Romania will face in the coming years an explosion in the number of new HIV cases.

Arhiva stiri

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