Romania: When Ignorance Is Lethal
Romania has come a long way from the dark days of 1980s and 1990s, when an HIV/AIDS epidemic resulting from poor infection controls and questionable medical practices came to light. Most of those infected at that time were young, hospitalized children. Patients who did not die were frequently ostracized.
Now: Antiretroviral treatment is free to people in need; AIDS death rates have plummeted; mother-to-child transmission rates have declined dramatically due to medical management; and patients' privacy is closely guarded. Romania is often cited as a success story for other poor countries dealing with epidemics.
But a considerable number of Romanians with HIV are unaware of their infection, and many remain ignorant of the basic facts about AIDS. Hard-hit by economic decline, the country has gutted funding for HIV/AIDS education, campaigners say, noting that prevention outreach has always been challenging in the nation due to fear of the disease.
Sexual transmission is the most common route of HIV infection, according to health workers. The silent pool of HIV-positive people who do not realize that they and their sexual partners are at risk is of great concern to these providers.