AP PHOTOS: Event challenges Down syndrome stigma in Romania

AP PHOTOS: Event challenges Down syndrome stigma in Romania

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Dozens of children with Down syndrome dressed in Romanian folk costumes and sang carols to celebrate Christmas in an event meant to banish prejudices and change attitudes.

Angels Down Friends, founded in 2013 by the parents of a child with Down syndrome, organized the event to encourage parents and with the long-term goal of more fully integrating children with Down syndrome into society.

There is a stigma attached to Down syndrome in Romania, combined with a lack of facilities. Most women who discover that their unborn babies are at risk of developing Down, or other disabilities, choose to have abortions, said Dr. Adrian Toma, an obstetrician with 20 years of experience.

"This is one step to change mentalities, attitudes, preconceived ideas," the association said in a statement. "We hope to give these wonderful children a chance, and develop programs, advice, recuperation and integration."

Last week, more than 50 children ages 1 to 14, together with their brothers and sisters, dressed in traditional costumes, recited poems and sung carols at a Bucharest high school.

Government statistics say 30,000 people have Down syndrome in Romania, but non-governmental groups such as Angels Down Friends believe there are as many as 50,000.

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