SARS-COV-2 pandemic has been affecting profoundly all societies. The governments have been imposing ever since March 2020 measures that have deeply affected quality of life for different groups of people, both among the general public and vulnerable groups. In Romania, authorities decided to impose emergency state all across the country for two months (March 16th – May 15th 2020). During this period a series of fundamental rights were suspended, included freedom of movement. In these circumstances, ARAS’ clients (IDU, people practicing commercial sex) went through a difficult period.
Anti-AIDS Romanian Association (ARAS*) conducted a research among the general public in order to collect major changes in professional and personal lives imposed by these measures, the hardest situations that people had to deal with and the most acute needs. Within the study, ARAS aimed at obtaining an image concerning access to essential services, such as needle exchange, free HIV and hepatitis testing services, methadone treatment, socio-medical services.
According to the findings, the biggest problems faced this period were in the area of emotional and psychological discomfort. Almost half of people responding to the study said that within this period they experimented unease and fear. The next challenge was their income, as almost half of the respondents declared that they went through income cuts. 44% mentioned that they needed financial support in paying rent, basic food, sanitary products or medicines (only 6% mentioned that they received this support).
During the state of emergency, the participants felt the urge of emotional support and psychological support. 44% mentioned that they confronted severe anxiety to leave their home and panic attacks (often and intense).
Among the most urgent needs for the IDU included in the study was the access of medical services in order to have proper treatment for disease different from infection with SARS-COV-2. 44% of the people involved in the study mentioned this as a problem.
IDU included in the study mentioned that access to substances was hampered by the increase in the price and the decrease of the quality of the substances available. Most of the people also mentioned that they had limited access to sterile injecting equipment. They described the situation as hunger for syringes.
Some of the people included in the study mentioned that they used the same syringe several times or they used syringes prior used by someone else (5 respondents said they used their own syringe several times, another 5 that they used a syringe used by someone else).
Within this report ARAS has included 221 people. The instrument used was online questionnaires. Average age of the people included is 41. 66% are women (for further methodological details, please consult the attachment available further on).
ARAS is a member of PLUS Coalition. It is a non-governmental organization (with it’s headquarter in Bucharest) was established in 1992. It developpes socio-psycho-medical support programs for people infected with HIV and people from different vulnerable groups: drug users, men who have sex with men, people with no or low income etc. Each year, 70 professional within the association offers support for appreciatively 5.000 people. The study was conducted within #SoS_Project