Services in Romania
In addition to the provision and monitoring of antiretroviral therapy, services offered at the Romanian Clinical Center of Excellence include programs in:
- Dental care
- Education for healthy, independent living
- Family planning
- Infectious diseases
- Psychosocial counseling
- Pulmonary diseases
- Social assistance and support groups
- Primary cardiology screening
Since 2001, the Romanian Clinical Center of Excellence has provided HIV/AIDS care and treatment services to more than 500 HIV-infected and HIV-exposed children and young adults.
Currently, the range of services was expanded offering, under one roof, services such as medical, psychological and social assistance to approximately 980 patients of all ages.
Baylor Black Sea Foundation, partner organization within Texas Children’s Global Health, operates a clinical center of excellence (COE) in Constanta, two offices for rapid testing and counseling in Constanta, and a protected housing complex.
In the early 90’s children in Romania accounted for more than half of all European pediatric AIDS cases. Most Romanian children with AIDS were infected with HIV as a result of discarded medical practices of the past, including reuse of disposable needles and repeated transfusions of sick and premature infants with whole human blood.
Approximately 50% of Romanian children with AIDS were orphaned or abandoned. BIPAI has worked collaboratively with the Romanian Ministry of Health and Romanian professionals since 1996.
First in the BIPAI Network
The most mature of BIPAI’s programs, Romania, opened the first COE and has the oldest patient population. As a result, BIPAI Romania continues to focus on successful methods for transitioning HIV+ adolescents to adult care and meeting the health needs of its patients and their families.
In 2007 BIPAI Romania began providing health services that need to be provided concurrently with HIV treatment, namely, dentistry, gynecology and tuberculosis treatment. In 2009, BIPAI Romania widened its mission to include medical services for other infectious diseases with similar transmission and lifestyle issues, and began laying the foundation to offer prevention and testing services for hepatitis B and C.
Currently in the COE we are also offering our beneficiaries primary cardiology and family planning services for the HIV+ patients but also for those with hepatitis B and C virus.
It also transitioned Flower House, once its home for HIV+ orphans, into a residence for homeless young adults where they can learn independent living skills in a safe environment. A requirement of residency is that the young person should go to school or work. Over 70 youths were housed during 2001 – 2014.
Psychosocial support plays a major role in BIPAI Romania’s services, as with any program caring for teens and young adults who live with HIV. The Romania team also often helps prevent medical discrimination by accompanying and representing its patients to other local services when necessary.
Hepatitis and HIV Testing Centers
Its free testing and counseling offices in Constanta and Tulcea have been well received by both patients and the local medical community with service requests growing rapidly. Clients receive pre- and post-test counseling and referrals to appropriate health services. Since its inception in 2007, more than 40,000 persons have been tested in Constanta and Tulcea, with annual prevalence rates of 4% for HVB, 3% for HCV, and 0.3% for HIV. These offices have also distributed thousands of free condoms and literature about safe sex, HIV prevention, and pregnancy prevention.
Continuous Medical Education
An important part of our Baylor team’s activity is represented by the continuous medical education trainings that are presented by the foundation’s authorized trainers.
Yearly, hundreds of healthcare workers, medical and dentistry students participate to the trainings organized by the Baylor Black Sea Foundation in Constanta. These have various themes which are extremely appreciated by our participants.
BIPAI Romania’s center of excellence hosts an extensive web site. Sustaining funding for the Clinical Center of Excellence has been provided by Abbott Fund, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and by AbbVie Foundation.
To view the BIPAI Romania 10 year anniversary website, please visit: www.excelenta-hiv.ro/en/
Hepatitis C awareness program launched in Romania
ROMANIA – (July 28, 2014) – Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital (BIPAI), Baylor Black Sea Foundation and AbbVie Foundation have joined forces to address the urgent need for increased hepatitis C awareness, prevention, treatment and care services in Romania – the European country with the highest prevalence of the disease.
With a more than four percent prevalence rate, Romania has the highest number of cases and mortality caused by viral hepatitis associated liver cirrhosis in Europe and offers the least amount of resources.
On the World Hepatitis Day, the organizations announced a new hepatitis C awareness program – the first of its kind in Romania – to provide resources for patients and their families to cope with the diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes associated with the disease.
The program will aim to identify the most critical needs of hepatitis C patients related to support services. Additionally, representatives of the program will establish partnerships with the local community to help identify new cases and develop a system able to offer long-term support. “BIPAI and the Foundation, in a public private partnership with AbbVie Foundation and Constanta County, intend to expand our reach and scope in hepatitis awareness, prevention and treatment through this initiative”, said Michael B. Mizwa, chief operating officer and senior vice president of BIPAI.
BIPAI and the Baylor Black Sea Foundation are well known in the local community for their activity in the infectious diseases field for over 10 years at the Clinical Center of Excellence in Constanta.
“We dare to be pioneers in the area of assisting HCV patients in Romania and we count on the good practices that we’ve developed in direct partnership with the Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatrics AIDS Initiative since the establishment of the Centre of Excellence”, said Ana-Maria Schweitzer, executive director of the Baylor Black Sea Foundation. “We wish to give hepatitis C patients and their families the power and courage to face the medical system, to face the changes happening in their lives and to prove that, despite the chronic condition that they are fighting with, somebody encourages them to move forward and supports them to improve their quality of life”.
COVID-19 response for Hep-HIV patients & infectious risk awareness program
Launched in March 2020, the program includes the fast development & implementation of telehealth and telecouseling services, taking the necessary steps to prepare both medical and psycho-social services to effectively address Baylor’s patients’ concerns.
In order to help managing anxiety throughout our community, Baylor develops risk assessment instruments, informative and educational kits.
Emergency Support for Ukrainian Refugees
2022 marked the launch of the Ukraine Refugees Response program, which aimed to facilitate access to medical care for the population displaced by the horrors of war in the neighboring country. Baylor Black Sea Foundation mobilized from the early stages of the conflict on the Romanian border. With the help of donors from Texas Children’s Hospital, the foundation meets the health needs of Ukrainians in Constanta.
Through the program launched in April 2022, the foundation ensured immediate medical care both at the nearest border check point, in Tulcea county and at the Clinical Center of Excellence of Baylor Black Sea Foundation.
Texas Children’s Global Health Network (TCG) leads the most modern care centers for children and youngsters affected by HIV around the world. At the same time, TCG organizes high-quality medical trainings and develops research initiatives. TCG was established in 1996 under the leadership of Dr. Mark Kline, now the physician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital and chair of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. Until now the TCG network has extended to countries in Africa and South America, over 200,000 people being assisted by the Baylor Centers around the world.
AbbVie Foundation a non-profit 501(c)(3)foundation, is dedicated to having a remarkable impact on the lives of the underserved around the world through a commitment to building strong communities, sustainable health care systems and effective educational programs. The AbbVie Foundation is funded by AbbVie, a global, research-based biopharmaceutical company formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott Laboratories. The company’s mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to develop and market advanced therapies that address some of the world’s most complex and serious diseases. AbbVie employs approximately 25,000 people worldwide and markets medicines in more than 170 countries. Abbott and the Abbott Fund and AbbVie and the AbbVie Foundation have been long-term supporters of the Baylor-Black Sea Foundation program in Romania.
Baylor Black Sea Foundation is the only representative of the TCG network in Romania that offers medical and psychosocial services at the Center of Excellence to people in Dobrogea region affected by infectious diseases. Since 2001 Baylor Romania has added to the already existing services (dentistry, infectious diseases, obstetrics-gynecology, pulmonology, rapid testing and psychosocial) new ones: family planning and primary cardiology services and most recently HCV care.
History of Abbott Fund/AbbVie Foundation Partnering with Baylor College of Medicine in Romania
Since 2000, Abbott and the Abbott Fund (now AbbVie and the AbbVie Foundation) have partnered with the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (lead by Dr. Mark Kline) to address pediatric HIV/AIDS in Constanta, Romania, a port city hit hard by the AIDS epidemic. Romania had the largest incidence of childhood AIDS in Europe, with approximately 7,000 to 10,000 children living with HIV/AIDS. The Executive Director of the Black Sea Foundation (incorporated in Romania in 2004), who oversees the Romanian Clinical Center of Excellence, is Ana-Maria Schweitzer.
This partnership significantly improved care and treatment for HIV-positive children. As documented in the April 2006 issue of Pediatrics, mortality rates for children with HIV/AIDS in Constanta were reduced by 90% in three years.
- Helped to renovate and fund ongoing operations at the Romanian-American Children’s Center (Center’s name officially became Romanian Clinical Center of Excellence in 2007), a pediatric outpatient AIDS clinic providing:
- The Children’s Center (now a family center) opened in April 6, 2001
- Treatment and psychosocial historically supported an average of 600 HIV-positive children (now mostly young adults) per year but today (2014) more than 800 patients are being served
- In 2014 AbbVie Foundation, building on the strong HIV/AIDS platform, began to provide grants for hepatitis C related programs. An additional grant was awarded to expand the size of the current center to allow for high quality hepatitis C services at this facility.
- Mobile and home-based care programs to about half of all the patients to monitor adherence and health status, prioritizing those patients included in the PMTCT program; Abbott constant formula milk donation has been instrumental during the years in ensuring the efficacy of the PMTCT program
- Monthly support groups for mothers (if not orphaned) and children with HIV/AIDS; now mostly family support groups meet at the center; the support groups have evolved in time, now focusing also on support for newly diagnosed cases, for those with adherence issues, for discordant couples and MSM patients.
- Resources to sustain management systems, including patient records, medications tracking and patient monitoring
- Providing Abbott’s (now AbbVie’s) HIV/AIDS protease inhibitors to treat up to 500 children for life (an average of 350 patients have these drugs are part of their treatment regimen)
- Purchased and renovated Flower House, a group home for 10 abandoned HIV-positive children, which continues to serve several young adults who need adult supervision; more than 60 unduplicated children, adolescents and young adults have been helped at the house since it was opened
- Renovated the Pediatrics Ward at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, which improved infrastructure and quality of care for all children served at the hospital
- Trained or retrained more than 5,000 medical professionals on voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) and HIV care until 2014
- By the end of 2014, offered free, rapid and confidential counseling and testing for HIV and viral hepatitis for more than 40,000 persons in the region, with a detection rate of around 7%
- Launched countrywide VCT for institutionalized children, using 50,000 rapid HIV tests donated by Abbott
- Along with Habitat for Humanity, built three apartments for young HIV-positive adults
- By the end of 2013, Abbott support in Romania totals more than $30 million – nearly $7 million in Abbott Fund/AbbVie Foundation grants and more than $25 million in Abbott/AbbVie product donations
Expanding a Successful Model Treatment Program
Based on the success of the model program in Romania, multiple donors have supported Baylor’s efforts to rapidly establish pediatric HIV clinics in Africa. This includes a partnership among the Abbott Fund (now AbbVie Foundation), Baylor and the Government of Malawi, which in 2006 opened the first pediatric HIV treatment center in Malawi and in Tanzania where two new clinics opened in 2011 (one in Mbeya with the Abbott Fund and one in Mwanza with the BMS Foundation. Additional Baylor pediatric HIV clinics have opened with support from the BMS Foundation and other donors in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Uganda. Today all of the clinics and their related programs are providing treatment for more than 85,000 children with HIV/AIDS.
Recognizing that a lack of trained health care workers is a key barrier to expanding HIV treatment programs for children, the Abbott Fund (now AbbVie Foundation) also has provided grants to link Baylor’s individual pediatric HIV clinics through the creation of the Baylor Children’s Clinical Centers of Excellence Network. The Network is focused on training health professionals, conducting research and sharing best practices in pediatric HIV/AIDS care.