Life doesn’t wait: Romania’s failure to protect and support children and youth living with HIV

Advocacy Materials
New York
Human Righ Watch
109 p.

More than 7,200 Romanian children and youth age fifteen to nineteen are living with HIV—the largest such group in any European country. The vast majority were infected with HIV between 1986 and 1991 as a direct result of government policies that exposed them to contaminated needles and “microtransfusions” of unscreened blood. Despite Romania’s progressive expansion of access to antiretroviral drugs, these children and youth face pervasive stigma and discrimination that often impedes their enjoyment of basic rights and services. Fewer than 60 percent of children living with HIV attend any form of schooling, and school graduates may be prevented from attending certain vocational programs. Doctors frequently refuse to treat people living with HIV, and bureaucratic delays and discrimination are barriers to obtaining medications for opportunistic diseases. Breaches of confidentiality by medical personnel, school officials, and government workers are common and rarely punished, while harsh punishments for knowing transmission of HIV exacerbates discrimination and can act as a barrier to youth seeking health care or police protection. Children’s right to information on HIV and reproductive health is compromised because doctors cannot inform them of their HIV status without parental consent. Law and practice arbitrarily prohibit people known to be HIV-positive from working in certain fields, and fail to protect individuals from HIV tests performed without informed consent by public and private employers. Inadequate complaint mechanisms and insufficient and poorly trained child protection staff leave children and youth with little recourse to abuse and neglect, and no government plan is in place to ensure that as children living with HIV age out of existing social protection programs they have the skills and support necessary to become productive, integrated adult members of Romanian society.

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