The fight against HIV in Romania – taking stock of the progress achieved while planning for better long-term care measures

This website has been created by Gilead for the purposes of disease education and awareness.

Romania recently made an assessment of the past thirty years, since the breakout of a phenomenon that can be classified as an epidemiologic accident, when thousands of children in Romanian orphanages were infected with HIV. Back then, the specialists had to take unprecedented measures and test solutions to a major problem that all other countries knew too little about.

 

Their efforts are reflected in today’s results, as the figures indicate that the number of people living with HIV registered in 2018 was slightly above 15.0001. For those who are on treatment, 80% have reached the threshold of viral suppression2. This means that they responded well to the treatment and have close to zero risk to transmit the virus to the others3.

The Romanian authorities have made considerable efforts to handle the epidemic and the National HIV Plan represents a continuous challenge for all those involved in managing the activities dedicated to people living with HIV. It was a collective effort of doctors, patients’ associations, pharma industry and authorities to act continuously and fight the virus.

To mark the past thirty years, an assessment of what fighting HIV meant for Romania was necessary, to better look ahead at what can be done for better care, according to European standards, of people living with HIV in Romania. To contribute to this collective effort, Gilead joined an initiative aimed to challenge the status quo in the fight against HIV in Romania. Over 70 stakeholders (doctors specialised in infectious diseases, psychologists, coordinators of the regional centres for monitoring HIV/AIDS, as well as finance coordinators) attended a series of roundtable meetings at the end of 2019, that took place in three important cities in Romania.

The multi-stakeholder roundtables hosted by the regional centres contributed to sharing relevant national statistics and gather ideas about the way HIV care can evolve more efficiently in the country. The National HIV/AIDS Program is one of the most dynamic ones ever implemented in the healthcare sector in Romania, and the results are encouraging, but can still be improved: 54% of people with HIV are undetectable4. In this context, the specialists exchanged views, analysing specific cases of their patients, how they responded to therapy, as well as how they managed the comorbidities and adverse effects associated with the disease. This with a view to identify potential treatment changes in order to reduce or eliminate some of these adverse effects.

Today, Romanians have access to innovative therapies, which allow people with HIV to benefit from a similar life expectancy as the general population. However, one of the biggest challenges doctors are faced with when treating patients is their adherence to treatment. For the therapies to work it is highly important for the patient to respect the plan made by the doctor. This is why the coordinator of the debates, MD., PhD. Adrian Streinu-Cercel, stressed the patients’ need for psychological support, to ensure they accept the new therapies, they feel comfortable in their social interactions and thus better cope better with social stigma, which remains a challenge to be addressed in Romania.

The debate program will continue in 2020, in six other regional centres. The conclusions of the debates will be centralised and be the basis for developing new strategies to accelerate the end of the AIDS epidemic in Romania.