PLWH in Romania Need More Comprehensive Care, Advocate Says

Nicoleta Dascalu, founding member and advocacy manager of Asociaţia Română Anti-SIDA (ARAS; Romanian Association Against AIDS), discusses the status of care for persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) in Romania, including health care coverage and lack of adequate medication access.

Nicoleta Dascalu, founding member and advocacy manager of Asociaţia Română Anti-SIDA (ARAS; Romanian Association Against AIDS), discusses the status of care for persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) in Romania, including health care coverage and lack of adequate medication access.

Transcript

What is the system of care for persons living with/at risk for HIV and AIDS?

For the people living with HIV, there is what is called a national program. It means that everybody, even the people who are not insured, receive the treatment. When you get positive for HIV, even if you’re not insured, automatically you become insured and you enter the system for the treatment, which is free of charge. It’s paid by the Ministry of Health, the public money. The treatment is taken and the people are monitored in infectious diseases hospitals; there are 2 in Bucharest and then there are 6 or 7 more all around the country. They are called the regional centers.

The medication is distributed in the hospital; you cannot take it in a pharmacy, in a chemist’s shop. That doesn’t exist here. You have to go to see the doctor. Before the pandemic, people had to go once per month, every month, to get their treatment for 1 month. But with the pandemic, in order to reduce the circulation, some of the infectious diseases hospital became a COVID hospital, so they could not receive the patients anymore. So they moved to a system of 3 months; people had to go and take their treatment for 3 months.

It’s not a perfect system, again, because there are now less and less; still, there are gaps in the treatment. There are there are medicines missing, for example, for 1 or 2 months. But there are some networks, some formal and informal networks of people living with HIV, and they borrow from each other or they kind of try to find solutions. But there are still problems with the stocks of antiretroviral treatment in Romania.

As far as I know, we are not very involved in treatment, advocacy. We advocate for continuous treatment, of course, and when there are gaps, we work together with the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] of people living with HIV to solve the problems. But we do not advocate for a certain type of treatment or for less expensive treatments or things like this. So I’m not aware of what kind of medication is used in Romania. I know that there are what is called original medicines and also generics. More or less, we are up-to-date with novelties in the field.