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Romanian Association Against AIDS (ARAS), Romania

ARAS is a non-governmental, apolitical, voluntary-based, not for profit organization, founded in Bucharest in 1992 by a group of people, most of them students, worried about big number of HIV cases discovered among children and about total lack of prevention services.

Since 1999 ARAS has been running the first program targeting sex workers in Romania. Its Night-by-Night Program is based on outreach activities targeting vulnerable and hidden populations involved in sex trade in Bucharest. Since 2001 a harm reduction component for the intravenous drug users and sex workers has been developed within the program, so the needles exchange, alcohol swabs, vaccination, etc. become available on the streets of Bucharest.

ARAS aims to inform and educate general population about HIV/AIDS and about effective means of prevention.  In its work, it puts an emphasis on respect and protection of human rights and dignity.  The organization strives to promote an attitude of support, tolerance and compassion with people living with AIDS, to defend their rights and interests, and to offer them psychosocial and material assistance.  It runs 24-hour AIDS help line, gives presentations in highs schools and universities, and organizes summer schools. The organization is also active in drawing the government’s attention on the importance of mobilizing human and financial resources necessary for the protection of public health.  It runs various media campaigns, the Name Project and International Candlelight Memorial in Romania.

Night-by-Night Program
Running since 1999, Night-by-Night Program is the first and the only initiative targeting sex workers in Romania. The project activities are designed to answer sex worker’s needs in the area HIV/AIDS/STI prevention, medical care, psychological support and social assistance.

Since 2004, in line with the National Strategy on HIV/AIDS, the project activities were expanded from Bucharest to other nine major counties. It is run by professional educators, psychologists, physicians and social workers. In Bucharest, the activities are carried out trough a Social Ambulance, fully equipped for medical care and counseling. It stops 5 nights per week in the places where the sex workers work and live. Project activities are also designed to reach pimps, drug users, intermediaries etc.

The services provided are: HIV/AIDS/STI risk assessment and risk reduction, primary medical care, Hepatitis A Virus and Hepatitis B Virus counseling and vaccination, psychological support, social assistance, referrals to other medical and social services, information and education materials distribution, needles exchange, safe injection equipment distribution, condoms and lubricant distribution, and transportation to other services.

Advocacy for human rights of vulnerable groups
ARAS is member of various European networks for human rights (TAMPEP, ENMP, CORRELATION, FENARETE) and member of the European Network of AIDS Helplines.  It is a founding member of the Romanian Forum for children and families affected by AIDS.

In Romania, ARAS is raising authorities’ awareness about the real situation in the field of HIV/AIDS and about the problems and needs of different vulnerable groups.  During 2002, the organization was in charge of the Secretarial activities for the National Inter-Ministerial AIDS Commission, where it has a status of a permanent guest member.

ARAS is the coordinator of the Romanian Harm Reduction Network.  Set up in January 2002, this network of 11 non-governmental and governmental organizations is active in the field of harm reduction for injected drug users. ARAS is acting as an umbrella for newly emerging organizations formed by and including vulnerable populations, such as men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, etc.

The ARAS’ donors are: GFATM, UNAIDS/UNDP, OSI/IHRD, UNICEF, USAID, Solidarite SIDA; Ministry of Labor of Romania, Social Solidarity and Family, European Commission, ANSIT, MATRA Program of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Western Union, Pfizer, and others.

Contact person: Marian Ursan, Project Coordinator
E-mail: marian.ursan@arasnet.ro
Web site: www.arasnet.ro