PRESS CONFERENCE BY HEALTH MINISTER OF ROMANIA
The Government of Romania today concluded major agreements with four pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of anti-retroviral drugs and make them accessible to the nearly 7,000 HIV-infected children in the country, its Minister of Health and Family, Dr. Daniela Bartos, announced today at a Headquarters press conference.
Dr. Bartos said that her Government was committed to achieving rapid access to anti-retroviral drugs for all children infected with HIV. Accordingly, it had decided to cancel all import taxes and duties applied to HIV/AIDS drugs. The Government recognized that HIV/AIDS was the main public health problem in Romania. Presently, there were 6,894 children living with HIV/AIDS in the country and "we must work tirelessly to make sure they receive the essential care they need", she said. Negotiations between her Government and the pharmaceutical firms were facilitated in New York today by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), turning some of Romania's national HIV/AIDS priorities into reality.
Joining the Minister were Dr. Adrian Streinu-Cercel, President of the National AIDS Commission in Romania and Adviser to the Minister, and Alexandru Niculescu, the Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations.
Dr. Bartos said that today's discussions with the pharmaceutical industry were extremely positive. Glaxo-SmithKline had reduced the cost of its anti-retroviral drugs by up to 87 per cent, Boehringer Ingelheim by more than 70 per cent, and Bristol Myers Squibb by between 20 and 60 per cent. Romania would also take part in Boehringer Ingelheim's donation programme for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Earlier negotiations with Merck Sharp & Dohme had yielded price cuts of 86 per cent on anti-retroviral drugs.
She said her country had already launched a significant HIV/AIDS programme throughout its territory. It boasted a system of care and surveillance to ensure access by all infected persons to care, a network of high-tech medical equipment for monitoring and evaluation, and nine university hospitals that served as reference centres for HIV/AIDS in the country. Currently, Romania was in the forefront of AIDS prevention and treatment in Eastern Europe, and it was the first country in the region to conclude major agreements to reduce the cost of anti-retroviral drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS. It had launched its initial AIDS programme in 1995, and after 1997, moved to rapidly intensify its efforts.
For the coming year, the national HIV/AIDS priorities were to increase access to anti-retroviral therapy from 33 per cent to 100 per cent in an effort to prolong life and improve its quality while reducing mortality among those infected. It also sought to assure the long-term sustainability of anti-retroviral therapy and decrease the rate of opportunistic infections. It would intensify HIV/AIDS prevention activities among youths and other vulnerable social groups and strive to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Also among its priorities was the improvement of the quality of medical, social and psychological assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS and the reinforcement of surveillance and monitoring of the epidemic. The Government also sought to develop a system of social support for the victims, and reinforce voluntary counselling and testing.
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