Romanian minister of Culture resigns amid public indignation following statements on HIV

Romanian minister of Culture resigns amid public indignation following statements on HIV


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

The Romanian minister of Culture, Daniel Barbu, has today submitted his resignation to PM Victor Ponta following a public outrage sparked by recent statements in which he complained about a too big budget for the treatment of the HIV/AIDS infected patients instead of money being allotted to “Shakespeare festivals”.

PM Ponta confirmed the resignation, but said he would forward it to the Romanian President Traian Basescu with a proposal of replacement following talks with the liberal partners. It is the head of state that has to sign the decree to vacate the Culture portfolio.

Barbu’s resignation comes four days after statements made during artistic festivities at the National Theater in Craiova, a city in SW Romania. Taking questions from the public, Barbu referred to the low budget his ministry has.

“During the debates on the 2014 budget, I was shocked, shaken by the following thing. Believe me, I do not want to appear cynical before you, with all due respect for the respective category of fellow citizens. The budget for the national program of prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS is half of the budget for all the programs of the Ministry of Culture. In my opinion, this is not South Africa, we do not have millions of citizens affected by the hideous scourge of our times. I personally do not understand. I was shocked when I realized how many Shakespeare festivals we could organize unless he had that program or if this program would half the size it has now” Barbu said, referring to the HIV program.

On Monday, the National Anti-Discrimination Council said it would launch an investigation against Barbu on grounds of discrimination. At the same time, the union of the organizations representing the HIV/AIDS infected people said the minister should apologize to the more than 12.000 patients in the country.

President Basescu also denounced Barbu’s statements, calling the minister a man with a “moral handicap”. Basescu reminded him that most of the HIV/AIDS infected people in the country date back to the communist times and early 90’s when the virus was transmitted through contaminated injections baby got in public hospitals.