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Infected and Abandoned: HIV-Positive Teenagers in Marasesti

Marasesti, the poorest town in Vrancea county, is among the first places in Romania to have reported HIV/AIDS cases. More than 70 Roma children fell victim to a 1989 HIV outbreak, labelled an “epidemiologic accident” and kept secret by the health authorities. The “accident” occurred in a neighborhood on the Marasesti outskirts, inhabited by 4,000 Roma. Without an official inquiry to confirm their suspicions on how their children were infected, Roma parents put the blame on medical professionals. For 16 years, the fate of the city has been connected with AIDS, poverty, discrimination, and ignorance.

This article was written as part of an investigative journalism fellowship program funded by the Open Society Institute. Open Society’s Roma Health and Health Media programs collaborated to support the Center for Independent Journalism, based in Bucharest, Romania, to launch an investigative journalism fellowship on the topic of access to health care for Roma. After a national two-day editors roundtable and a competitive selection process, the project resulted in the production and publishing of three pieces in regional newspapers in Romania. The work details various issues impacting Roma health—which is disproportionally poorer than that of non-Roma residing in the same communities. The articles bring to light the need to further improve access to quality health care for Roma and explore the systems that create unequal access.

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