|© UNICEF video|
|Cristian Traicu, 18, is a fighter and a survivor who has been living with HIV for 17 years.|
By Amor Almagro
BUCHAREST, Romania, 29 November 2006 – Between 1988 and 1990, approximately 10,000 children in Romania were diagnosed with HIV. Some 7,000 are still alive. Cristian Traicu, 18, is one of them.
A fighter and a survivor, the teen was diagnosed with HIV 17 years ago. Today he is happy to be alive. “I take 11 pills daily. I exercise and try to think positively. That helps a lot,” he says.
Having a positive attitude helped Cristian form ‘The Fighters’, a network of young people who teach others about HIV and AIDS, how it is transmitted and how it can be prevented.
“I discovered I have this skill. I can speak in the name of others who are also HIV-positive,” he explains.
‘We know how to protect ourselves’
With UNICEF’s support, Cristian and many of his peers have been trained on how to talk to the media, develop campaigns to fight discrimination and stigma, and advocate for the rights of young people living with HIV.
“We go out to the streets and inform other young people like us about HIV and AIDS. We tell them that we are not posing any danger to people around us. We know our rights and responsibilities,” says Cristian.
Reaching out to youth on the streets complements UNICEF’s HIV/AIDS prevention work in the schools. Typically, those who are out of school do not have access to information on health and sex education, and are at greater risk of exposure to illegal drug use and unprotected sex.
|© UNICEF video|
|As the founder of a youth network called ‘The Fighters’, Cristian Traicu helps teach other young people about how HIV is transmitted and can be prevented.|
Knowing their rights and responsibilities helps young people living with HIV fight the stigma they encounter in their daily lives.
“Lack of information leads to discrimination,” explains Cristian. “We tell people that we know how to protect ourselves and those people around us from being infected with HIV.”
Since 2001 The Fighters have been in action on the streets of Bucharest, Romania’s capital, and in other parts of the country. They represent the youth sector of a national network called National Union of Organizations of People Living with HIV and AIDS (UNOPA).
“UNOPA was born out of the desire of parents with HIV-positive children to protect the rights of their children from discrimination and stigmatization,” explains UNICEF Romania Health and Nutrition Project Coordinator Tania Goldner. “These children have grown up and are now able to speak and fight for their rights.
“We recognize the value of their participation in UNICEF’s efforts to prevent HIV and AIDS among young people and to fight against discrimination and stigmatization,” she adds.
The Fighters now boast 30 active members from various parts of the country, and Ms. Goldner says UNICEF will continue to support the group. “We want to help them expand their network at the national level so that they would be able to become equal partners of decision-makers in preventing HIV and AIDS,” she explains.
20 November 2006:
UNICEF’s Vladimir Lozinski reports on how Romanian teenager Cristian Traicu and copes while living with HIV.
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