Activists have been afraid it would happen in the poorest countries of Asia or Africa. But it's happening in Europe instead. In Romania, HIV drugs are running out. People in the regions have been traveling to Bucharest to try to get their supplies, but the capital city's shelves are emptying and from this week, they will be turned away. As the Romanian Aids organisations put it, people with HIV are being sentenced to death.
Some people have had no drugs for over a month now. The reasons for the stock-outs are not entirely clear. Certainly Romania is hit by the recession, but, as an open letter from the EU HIV/Aids Civil Society Forum to the Romanian president, Traian Basescu, and his government said yesterday, other cash-hit European states have managed to keep the medicines available. It is a very serious situation for the 7,000 or so people with HIV in Romania. Antiretroviral drugs keep people alive and well, but those who start the drugs have to stay on the drugs, or the virus in their body will evolve into a drug-resistant strain. And then the drugs they were taking will not work any more. They will need other (more expensive) drugs instead. And for some, the Forum told the government in its letter, time is running out.
In particular those who as youngsters got infected in Romanian hospitals during their early childhood, between 1986 and 1992, are patients who received several drug regimens in the past, and some of them are already receiving their last treatment option. By interrupting their treatment, these people will be at great personal health risk, with the well-known public health implications on top.The Forum - and the local NGOs - are urging the Romanian government to take steps to restore the drug supply. Money may be short, they say, but it is open to them to negotiate lower prices with the pharmaceutical industry, which they have not done. The letter also asks the government to call in the World Health Organisation for help and advice.
Depriving people of the drugs that will keep them alive is a clear breach, they say, of article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Two Romanian HIV/Aids NGOs, SENS POZITIV Association and ARAS - the Romanian Association Against AIDS, have set up a petition, here.
Watch House of Numbers and see the Nagel Family talk about adopting their daughter from Romania, her HIV positive test, and the direction they chose to take regarding HIV treatment.