The National Council for Combating Discrimination has referred the matter of the Minister of Culture’s statements to itself.
Mind-numbing statement made by Daniel Barbu, Minister of Culture, in Craiova. Attending a series of events at the National Theater in Craiova, entitled SpectActor, the minister said money allocated for the national HIV/AIDS prevention and combating program accounts for half the budget allocated for Ministry of Culture programs. “(…) In my opinion, it’s not like we are in South Africa. We don’t have millions of citizens affected by this hideous scourge of our age. I personally don’t understand. I was shocked when I realized how many larger-scale Shakespeare Festivals we could organize in Craiova if we wouldn’t have that program or if only half the current amount would be allocated for it,” Barbu said.
Yet, Barbu commented on his previous statement yesterday saying in a press release he had made an unfortunate comparison and he “deeply regrets” if his “out of context” statement “insulted anyone.” “I made a comparison. I admit it was unfortunate and that is all. I take this opportunity you have provided me with to issue an apology and express my regret if I insulted those who have taken offense at my statement, which I regret and apologize for,” the Minister of Culture stated.
The minister’s statement, harshly criticized
UNOPA (the National Union of NGOs for Persons Affected by HIV/AIDS) has characterized Daniel Barbu’s statement as an insult to patients infected with this virus. UNOPA representatives have announced they will file a complaint with CNCD (the National Council for Combating Discrimination) against the ministry official. They have also requested an apology from Daniel Barbu for his comments on HIV-positive patient treatments, in addition to an official position from the Government regarding the minister’s statement. “We also believe Daniel Barbu’s remarks are an invitation to stigmatize and discriminate this category of patients, who, in the minister’s opinion, are to blame for the lack of Romanian festivals. We see his suggestion to shut down the national HIV treatment program as a chastisement the Government is preparing to inflict on these patients, most of whom are children infected at birth in the medical system of the 1988/1990s,” a press release shows. According to UNOPA, if a minister made such a public statement in a civilized country, he would be forced to hand in his honourable resignation the very next day, so as to prevent further damage on the Government’s image.
Nevertheless, CNCD has already referred the matter of Daniel Barbu’s statements to itself. At a subsequent Panel of Directors meeting, the Council will analyze these statements from the point of view of discrimination and the violation of HIV affected persons’ dignity, Csaba Asztalos, President of CNCD, stated.
President Traian Basescu has deemed the Minister of Culture’s comments on budget allocation for HIV prevention as “wrong,” given that Romania has over 12,000 registered HIV patients. The Head of State pointed out that “in all civilized countries and in less developed Africa, anti-HIV programs are a priority because the spread of the disease can only be prevented by treating the persons affected by it.” “I think no one, not even the richer people, can bear the costs of such an intensive treatment (…),” Basescu stated.
In turn, Ministry of Health representatives have stated that comparing the financing of the anti-HIV/AIDS program with the financing of cultural festivals was uninspired and inappropriate because the HIV/AIDS problem is a public health issue and should be handled with full responsibility. According to the cited source, health is a priority and HIV/AIDS is a matter of public health.