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USA Today Profiles Partnership Among Baylor University, Romanian Government, NGOs to Help HIV-Positive Children

February 8, 2005

USA Today on Tuesday profiled several U.S.-Romanian programs aimed at helping HIV-positive Romanian youth, most of whom contracted the virus from unscreened blood transfusions. Mark Kline, a pediatric AIDS specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, in 1996 following a visit to the country put in motion a plan that led to the 2001 formation of a partnership among Baylor, a local hospital, not-for-profit organizations and the Romanian government to create a center for HIV-positive children. Through care and treatment, the mortality rate of the children at the center has declined from 15% to 3% in three years, according to Kline. The pediatric AIDS epidemic in Romania is considered "one of the legacies" of former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, USA Today reports. Ceausescu banned abortion and birth control -- leading to an increase in unplanned pregnancies -- and denied that an HIV/AIDS problem existed in Romania. As a result, blood was not routinely screened and hospitals reused syringes. In addition, "sickly" children in the country received regular blood transfusions, according to USA Today. As a result, about 8,000 of the 11,000 HIV-positive people who live in the country today are children and youth. Baylor University plans to begin similar programs in other resource-poor settings with pediatric AIDS epidemics, including Mexico City, Uganda, Libya, Lesotho and Swaziland, according to USA Today (Marklein, USA Today, 2/7).

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