(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NGO Report: Responding to the Children's AIDS Epidemic

Asociatia Benone in Turgu Mureș helps people who are infected with HIV navigate the bureaucracy necessary to obtain disability benefits, find information and social support, and combat discrimination due to their disease. Parents whose children were infected by AIDS founded Asociatia Benone in 2001. Asociatia Benone is affiliated with more than 20 similar AIDS advocacy organizations through the National Union of the Association of People Affected by HIV/AIDS (UNOPA: Uniunea Națională a Organizaților Persoanelor Afectate de HIV/SIDA). These parents lobbied the Romanian government to provide lifetime disability benefits for children infected by AIDS.
            Their children contracted AIDS as a result of non-sterile practices among public health workers.  During the Communist era, public health nurses were issued one syringe each year to use for inoculations.  During the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic was spreading, many children were infected by public health nurses reusing non-sterile syringes for their childhood immunizations. 
The beneficiaries that I met were ages 21 and 24, which, at the fall of Communism in 1989, would make them not yet born and 2 years old.  They were diagnosed age 8 and 9 (in 1998 and 1996) respectively, after many childhood illnesses and infections.  This means that the public health system was not that much improved after the fall of Communism, since they contracted the virus after the fall.
During the class presentation that I attended, each beneficiary began his talk, in Romanian, of course, by saying, “Hello, I’m ___________; I am a positive person.”  They went on to describe how they lived with a chronic disease, emphasizing how they make the most of each day.  I thought that the play on words was an inadvertent consequence of my translator.  As I learned more about the organization, I found out that their monthly newsletter is called “The Positive Journal.”  An important part of their peer support is to reinforce a positive attitude that makes the most of every situation that presents itself, because, as one said, “you never know if you’re going to feel better or worse tomorrow, so you have to get the most out of today.”
A great life lesson.

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