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Romania likely has most cases of HIV/AIDS in SE Europe
  Alecs Iancu
Romania is likely the country with the most HIV/AIDS cases in south-eastern Europe and this is mostly a result of the medical errors committed in the past, especially during the communist rule, according to Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu yesterday.
"Now we pay with significant resources for the mistakes that were did mostly during the communist rule, mistakes that led to the infecting of over 10,000 people, most of them children, in medical units or through various medical maneuvers," the minister said. His comments came at the opening of the regional consultation on worldwide access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in southeast Europe, organized in Bucharest yesterday and today.
According to the minister, the whole region is going through a transition period, when many priorities must be dealt with quickly. "Under these circumstances, problems such as HIV/AIDS may find a place in our agenda of priorities more difficultly. The fact that we do not yet have major HIV/AIDS epidemics in our countries is not, however, a reason to avoid dealing with the issue with the utmost seriousness," Nicolaescu added.
Romania, although it does not face a major epidemic, is probably one of the countries most affected by HIV/AIDS in southeast Europe, allocating over 45 million dollars every year only for access to specific therapy.
Estimates show that the National HIV/AIDS Program received over 65 million dollars last year from local and international partners. "We want to believe we have learned something from the past and this is why we set up a strong national strategy in the field and we rely on its application based on a wide national and international partnership gathering several ministries, non-governmental organizations and organizations of people that are infected," Nicolaescu added.
Recent assessments show however that large investment will be needed in the future, especially in prevention programs to contain the spread of the disease.
"We are aware that efforts regarding treatment and care must be completed with offering a wider access to prevention services. Otherwise, we are likely to face a new wave of the epidemic very soon," the minister said.
HIV/AIDS is quickly increasing in Eastern Europe and central Asia, as over 270,000 people were infected last year, bringing the number of people infected with the virus in this part of the world to 1.6 million, according to the executive director of UNAIDS, Deborah Landey, who is also in Bucharest.
At the end of September last year, nearly 11,000 Romanians were reportedly infected with HIV or had AIDS.
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