"We are not doing enough testing which means we don’t know what level we are with the 90-90-90 goals"

Alina

Bucharest, Romania

Alina is the founder of an organisation that provides services to people living with HIV. Her journey began 17 years ago at a chance meeting with a social worker; after learning about local services in need of support, Alina volunteered to teach art to a group of young people living with HIV.

Although organisations like Alina’s can provide social, medical and legal support, she is concerned that overall, Romania is lagging behind in the global HIV response. In particular, she says insufficient testing for HIV means the country cannot properly measure its progress towards global HIV/AIDS targets.

Alina feels public awareness and understanding of HIV in Romania is still low. In her work, she sees the personal impact of stigma, especially on those who are newly diagnosed and unfamiliar with HIV. Through helping them, meaningful connections develop: “I care a lot for the people that I work with. I have known some of them for 17 years, and I have very powerful relationships with them.”

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Alina’S STORY

Bucharest, Romania

Alina’s journey to leading in her local HIV response began by chance. In 2005, while having coffee with friends, Alina met a social worker who told her about children and teenagers she worked with who were living with HIV. Their social work centre did not have an art teacher so Alina volunteered to make paintings with the group.

Working with these kids, Alina was troubled to realise they had little understanding of their condition: “They were saying, ‘I have AIDS and I will die very soon’,” she explains. “But once I started to read about HIV, CD4 count and viral load, I realised they were not dying, and they did not have AIDS.”

Alina saw a clear need to improve awareness and understanding of HIV, prompting her to found Sens Positiv, an organisation that provides services to people living with HIV. After 17 years of working on HIV, Alina believes that the general public’s understanding of HIV in Romania is still low. “For a newly-diagnosed person it’s very difficult at the beginning. Their initial reaction is that they will fall ill and die very soon. So, when they connect with our services, we can help them to realise that - with timely diagnosis and the correct treatment - life expectancy can be the same as an HIV-negative person.”

When they connect with our services, we can help them to realise that - with timely diagnosis and the correct treatment - life expectancy can be the same as an HIV-negative person

I care a lot for the people that I work with. I have known some of them for 17 years, and I have very powerful relationships with them

Since government resources towards the HIV response in Romania are limited, it often falls to NGOs, like Sens Positiv, to provide the range of necessary social, medical, and legal support for people living with HIV.

While globally the outlook for people living with HIV has vastly improved since the 1980s, Alina has many concerns about HIV in Romania. “We are not doing enough testing which means we don’t know what level we are with the 90-90-90 goals.1 We hope to eradicate HIV but we don’t have a national strategy. The number of people living with HIV is rising each year, but the budget stays the same.”

Despite the challenges, Alina remains motivated and proud of her work: “I care a lot for the people that I work with. I have known some of them for 17 years, and I have very powerful relationships with them.”

Outside of work, Alina reflects on the most important elements of her life: “I am very happy with my daughter and the young woman she is now. I think ‘Wow, I did this!’

“My daughter and my work are the most important things in my life. And my dogs of course; they are like other children. They are adopted so they are a bit strange, but they’re so nice!”

THE IMPACT OF RADIAN ON Alina’s work

The RADIAN ‘Unmet Need’ fund has enabled Alina to recruit and train new community specialists to work in three other large cities in Romania in addition to Bucharest. They have now begun psychological support with people living with HIV and key populations and can offer services in these three key regions outside the capital.

This funding has amplified the impact of Sens Positiv’s work, supporting Alina and her team in their efforts to provide HIV services across the whole of Romania.

With access to healthcare a persistent challenge for people living with HIV, community organisations like Alina’s are more important than ever.

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