More than 7,200 Romanian children and youth age 15 to 19 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 transfusions of unscreened blood.

Despite Romania’s progressive expansion of access to antiretroviral drugs, these children and youth face pervasive stigma and discrimination that often results in violations of their rights to education, health, privacy, information and protection. At special risk are children with educational deficiencies or developmental delays resulting from long periods in state institutions; many of them are aging out of existing social protection programs.

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Romanian children and youth living with HIV face a wide variety of abuses:

  • Discrimination in access to education keeps more than 40 percent of children living with HIV from attending any form of schooling, and bars children from some vocational programs;
  • Discrimination in access to medical care results in doctors frequently refusing to treat people living with HIV, while stigma and bureaucratic delays create barriers to obtaining medications for opportunistic diseases;
  • Widespread, unpunished breaches of confidentiality by medical personnel, school officials and government workers;
  • Denial of the right to learn one’s HIV status and receive adequate counseling on health and sexuality results from legal bans on disclosure of HIV status to children without parental consent;
  • Criminalization of knowing transmission of HIV increases discrimination and can act as a barrier to youth seeking health care or police protection;
  • Laws mandating HIV testing and HIV testing performed without informed consent by public and private employers create arbitrary restrictions on work in certain fields and violate individuals right to privacy;
  • Inadequate complaint mechanisms leave children and youth with little recourse to abuse and neglect, as do insufficient and poorly trained child protection staff

Human Rights Watch is working with Romanian, regional, and international nongovernmental organizations to urge the Romanian government to:

  • Provide effective and appropriate for discrimination against people living with HIV, and make them enforceable against all civil servants and medical, social and educational personnel who breach confidentiality;
  • Ensure that children and youth living with HIV have access to education that is appropriate to their needs, including access to accurate information on reproductive health and HIV and AIDS;
  • End mandatory HIV testing as a condition of employment and ensure that people living with HIV are not unnecessarily prevented from working or attending vocational school;
  • Ensure that people living with HIV have adequate access to medical care, including medications needed to treat HIV and common opportunistic infections;
  • Protect children and youth living with HIV from abuse and neglect, and ensure that HIV-positive children and youth with mental and physical disabilities enjoy the right to special care suitable to their condition; .
  • Ensure that children and youth living with HIV are fully informed on how their rights and benefits will change after they turn 18, and that children and youth in foster, extended family and residential care are adequately prepared for independent living;
  • Provide appropriate continuing services to young adults who may require them; an
  • Repeal article 384 of the Criminal Code, a law that criminalizes the knowing transmission of HIV, but in practice increases discrimination against children and youth living with HIV and can act as a barrier to youth seeking health care or police protection

 &copy 2006 Human Rights Watch