Romania: Supply of AIDS Drugs Running Low Where Epidemic Had Been Controlled
LEADER Patients have appealed to President Traian Basescu.
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
Published: August 17, 2009, New York Times
Romania, which has been lauded as a poor country that successfully tackled its AIDS epidemic, is facing shortages of antiretroviral drugs because of the global recession, according to local media reports and people working there.
AIDS patients have appealed to President Traian Basescu to restore their medications, the newspaper Romania Libera reported.
The AIDS epidemic in Romania is unusual. Only about 12,000 people have the virus, of whom about 9,000 are on treatment — many of them teenagers and young adults infected by blood transfusions and dirty needles when they were babies in the late 1980s.
Orphanage populations had swelled as President Nicolae Ceausescu, trying to drive up birth rates, outlawed birth control and abortion. With little money for food, vitamins or supplies, squalid state orphanages gave “micro-transfusions” of adult blood from paid donors as a nutritional supplement, and nurses reused vaccination needles.
Mr. Ceacescu was overthrown and executed in 1989, and the orphanages began emptying, but hundreds of children died in the next few years. In 2001, drug prices fell sharply, and by 2004, with help from foreign donors, the government declared that it had virtually every AIDS patient on treatment, with subsidies for food and transportation. Now many patients are down to only a few days’ worth of pills, local news media reports say.
“Our wonderful doctors have worked so hard to keep these kids alive for so long, it would be tragic if they’re endangered by a shortage of antiretrovirals,” said Mary Veal, an American who has worked for years with AIDS patients in Romanian hospitals.