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EPHA’s 4th Annual Conference on 4 & 5 September 2013 “Our health, our economy, our society, our future: a Brave New World” paid particular attention to the Roma perspective of breaking the cycle of inequalities. EPHA would like to thank the Open Society Foundations – Roma Health Project who made it possible for Roma health advocates from Central and Eastern Europe to participate in the event. After the event they, together with other Roma participants, shared their views about the conference.

In the session ‘Breaking the cycle of inequalities – building more equal and healthier societies’, chaired by MEP Jean Lambert (UK, The Greens)  Bucharest-based NGO Carusel talked about their work on harm reduction amongst Roma drug users. On her speech, she stressed the following points:

  • There is a noticeable increase in the number of HIV infections amongst drug users in Romania as a result of the crisis. Mohr added that the cuts in prevention programmes were very tangible.
  • Roma individuals are more vulnerable than the general population because they have poor access to medical care and social services, and often they lack papers for medical insurance. Unemployed and discrimination are added problems. She cautioned that the effects of the crisis have not yet reached their peak.
  • According to a Carusel survey, 52% of drug users in Romania were HIV positive. She went on to point out that drug use is a sensitive subject in the country: many Roma HIV carriers are marginalised by their own community.
  • Carusel is developing an advocacy project targeting Roma organisations including the National Agency for Roma in order to make clear references to harm reduction, and provide medical support for drug users.

Roma Health advocates from their perspective

The Open Society Foundations Roma Health Project made available travel and accommodation grants for Roma health advocates to participate in the 4th EPHA Annual Conference “Our health, our economy, our society, our future: a Brave New World”.

Mustafa Asanovski , a Roma Rights activist participated in the event from the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) Macedonia. He stressed the following: “as a Roma rights activist who spends a fair amount of time working on Roma-related issues in the field, in particular in health, this conference has provided me a high-level platform to discuss joint initiatives in addressing health priorities across Europe.”

“EPHA 4th Annual Conference was an outstanding platform to discuss the most pressing issues facing the Romani community in Europe. During the conference, I learned an awful lot about new and interesting aspects/trends on the link bewteen public health and austerity in Europe. The conference’s inspiring presentations provided food for thought on how governments and civil society can collaborate to improve the health conditions of the Romani communities in Europe. The insight I gained during the conference will help me better advocate on my Romani rights. I would definitely like to be a part of next year’s conference. ”

Bernadett Mária Varga, a young Hungarian Roma health advocate said the following:

” Over the past two years I have narrowed my focus to advocating rights to health care with a focal point on promoting access to health care for socially excluded and vulnerable groups.

I have been interested in EPHA’s activities for long, so I felt privileged to be one of its selected Roma health advocates to take part in its 4th annual conference in Brussels.

I am deeply committed to providing and assuring equal access to health services to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. That is why I was very much interested in Ms. Ana Mohr’s presentation, who talked about drug users and sex-workers in Romania. Her presentation proved that the Roma population are the most vulnerable of all.

 

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