Friendly HIV prevention services are needed to safeguard adolescents’ healthBucharest, March 1st, 2013 – Daciana Sârbu, Member of the European Parliament, and the UNICEF Representative in Romania, Sandie Blanchet, have met and talked with the beneficiaries of the Romanian Association against AIDS (ARAS): vulnerable adults and adolescents, street children, drug users, commercial sex workers.
“Effective HIV prevention must primarily target the most vulnerable group – adolescents just out of childhood who are likely to take up drugs. Greater efforts are needed to stop this phenomenon from spreading and to contain it, and we have to join forces at all levels to protect the young generation from this terrible threat. I’ve proposed to the European Commission to initiate a European Strategy on Child Health as an EU-funded programme featuring an education and information component on drug use prevention. We need an EU-wide initiative to accompany national efforts,”, declared Daciana Sârbu, MEP.
Adolescents are facing multiple risks in Romania and all over the world: poverty, exposure to violence, abuse and neglect, sexual exploitation, human trafficking. At a young age, some adolescents can make bad decisions or be pushed in the wrong direction.
“UNICEF is committed to two priorities: the first one is to make sure vulnerable adolescents are identified and given the support they need in their families and communities before they adopt high-risk behaviours such as: drop-out, drug use, drinking and smoking, teenage pregnancy, trafficking in persons,”, stated Sandie Blanchet, UNICEF Representative in Romania. “But when adolescents are already at risk, when they end up living in the streets just like the ones we have met tonight, they need access to specialised health care and social services such as: shelters, HIV risk reduction programmes, psychological counselling and social assistance,”, added Sandie Blanchet.
According to ARAS, adolescents and adults who live in the streets have gotten to a worse place in recent years. Changes in drug-using behaviours and the new psychoactive substances have increased the risks of HIV infection and other infectious diseases: hepatitis B and C. Official figures indicate growing HIV cases in the past years among injecting drug users, while in 2012 new HIV cases accounted for 31% of all infections.
According to an ESPAD survey, drug use among young people aged 15 to 16 years doubled (from 5% to 10%) between 2007 and 2010. This is also confirmed by what ARAS has experienced in several schools. “During a health education session, half of the attending students said they had used new psychoactive substances at least once,”, declared Dan Popescu, ARAS Programme Officer.
Therefore, adolescents are in urgent need of health education catered to them in schools, of programmes that enhance protection at home and in the community in order to avert the risks related to drug use, unsafe sex, etc.
The economic downturn has contributed to declining financial resources allocated to prevention and assistance interventions and ARAS is one of the few NGOs that work with street teenagers and offer them specialised services. Current financial constraints affecting service providers such as ARAS will lower services targeting marginalised children and adolescents at a time when they are most in need of them and it is crucial that such programmes be given long-term support by central and local governments.
About UNICEF Romania
UNICEF is on the ground in Romania and other 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. In Romania, UNICEF works with the Government, the Parliament, local authorities, the civil society, the private sector, national and international partners, and with the media to give all children access to quality early childhood education and schooling, to protect adolescents and monitor child rights, to provide social protection and mobilise resources for children. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
The Romanian Association against AIDS (ARAS) is a non-governmental organisation active since 1992 in preventing HIV/AIDS, supporting affected people, and protecting human rights. Set up in Bucharest, ARAS now counts nine field offices in different towns all over the country and runs prevention programmes for the general public and for all vulnerable groups (youth, drug users, commercial sex workers, etc). ARAS is a member of the Civil Society Forum on HIV/AIDS established by the European Commission. For further information about our programmes and projects, please go to www.arasnet.ro.
For more information, please contact:
Despina Andrei, Communication and Fundraising Manager, UNICEF Romania, tel.: 00 40 749 194 239, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Georgescu, ARAS Executive Director, tel.: 00 40 745 101 469, email: email@example.com