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Resilience of the HIV response: a regional meeting of REActors from five countries in Sarajevo

12-13 June, 2024, Sarajevo hosted an important meeting of REActors from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, and Serbian, within the framework of the SOS 2.0 Regional Program 2022-2024, focusing on the sustainability of the HIV response in these five countries of South Eastern Europe. The event, organized by the South Eastern Europe Regional TB and HIV Community Network (SEE RCN)together with the Alliance for Public Health, brought together 40 participants, including national REActors and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) experts.

On the first day of the meeting, participants discussed the goals, objectives, and expected outcomes of the event. The REAct section provided an overview of the program’s achievements and discussed the challenges faced by the teams between 2022 and 2024. Each of the five countries presented their challenges and problem areas, followed by recommendations for improving the program at the national level. Participants also brainstormed on how to promote REAct and increase client outreach, discussed strategic cases and advocacy methods, and well as how to achieve sustainability of the REAct program in the Southeast Europe region.

At the same time, another section discussed the current situation with PrEP implementation in five countries of the region. The experience and achievements of PrEP programs over the last two years, clinical aspects of pre-exposure prophylaxis use, and the development and discussion of PrEP protocols were reviewed.

The second day of the meeting focused on discussing the progress, challenges, and plans for REAct and PrEP implementation. Representatives from each country shared their successes and challenges and provided recommendations for improvement. Fast Track Cities initiative, ARV price reduction, self-testing and decentralized testing, and social contract mechanisms were also touched upon. Each of these topics was discussed taking into account progress, challenges, and plans, with mandatory feedback from country representatives and the development of recommendations.

Victoria Kalyniuk, REAct Regional Coordinator, participated in this meeting and emphasized the importance of using REAct to improve the situation with gender barriers in the Balkans: “The country presentations and our discussions demonstrated that the use of REAct has a huge potential to overcome gender barriers in access to services for key groups. Thus, the research conducted by the Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS shows how difficult the situation remains in the region of South Eastern Europe and how important it is to implement REAct in new areas to improve this situation and ensure equal access to necessary services for all”

The meeting concluded with final discussions and identification of the next steps. The event was an important step towards strengthening the sustainability and effectiveness of the HIV response in the South Eastern Europe region, providing participants with an opportunity to share experiences, discuss current challenges, and develop strategies for further improvements.


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Solidarity and action: International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

United for equality: IDAHOBIT and the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

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Response stories

Confronting harassment: a disturbing incident in Albania

In the late hours of the night, Elira (name changed), a transgender girl, was walking through the area N in her city. It was a time when the streets were quiet, and the usual hustle and bustle of the city had died down. As she walked, an unknown man noticed her and approached.

Initially, the perpetrator sought sexual favors from Elira. When she refused, the situation quickly escalated. The man’s demeanor changed, and he began to threaten and intimidate her. His words and actions were so severe that Elira was left in a terrible emotional state, visibly shaken and distressed.

Recognizing the seriousness of the incident, Elira reached out for help, and her case was promptly taken up by the REActors. The incident details were meticulously documented. The case is currently being resolved, with the REActors working diligently to ensure that Elira receives the justice and support she deserves.

This incident highlights the dangers and emotional trauma that LGBTIQ+ individuals, like Elira, can face simply for being themselves. It underscores the urgent need for greater protection, support, and awareness to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable communities in our society.


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Navigating stigma in healthcare: the case from North Macedonia

Resolving сounseling сhallenges in the OST program in Montenegro

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Response stories

Navigating stigma in healthcare: the case from North Macedonia

Aleksandar (name changed), from North Macedonia, who is living with HIV and has an undetectable viral load due to antiretroviral therapy (ART), was referred to a gastroenterohepatology clinic because of long-standing gastritis problems.

During the initial consultation, the gastroenterologist took Aleksandar’s medical history and determined that a colonoscopy was necessary to investigate his gastritis issues further. However, when Aleksandar informed the doctor about his ART regimen and undetectable viral load, the doctor reconsidered and decided to prescribe oral medication instead. The doctor suggested that it would be better to attempt to resolve the problem with tablets first. He advised Aleksandar that if the tablet therapy did not help within a month, then a colonoscopy would be required. The doctor pointed out that a colonoscopy could not be performed at their clinic because of Aleksandar’s HIV status. Instead, he recommended that the procedure should be done at the Infectious Disease Clinic, citing that such interventions had been performed there in the past.

After a month of tablet therapy, Aleksandar’s symptoms persisted. He was informed that the Infectious Disease Clinic no longer performed colonoscopies. Faced with this situation, Aleksandar decided to undergo a colonoscopy at a private health facility without disclosing his HIV status.


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Resolving сounseling сhallenges in the OST program in Montenegro

Protecting your rights and dignity: supporting a client of OST in Ukraine

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Response stories

Resolving сounseling сhallenges in the OST program in Montenegro

At the begining of the year, REActors received a complaint from Luka (name changed) regarding the insufficient psychological counseling provided in the OST program. Luka’s primary concerns were the infrequent and brief sessions with the psychologist, along with the distracting environment in the overcrowded waiting area. He believed these conditions detracted from the quality of care he was entitled to.

Following up on Luka’s complaint, REActors’ team collaborated with the psychiatric clinic to evaluate the situation. The clinic’s psychiatric staff acknowledged the operational difficulties, noting the challenge of serving a large client base while ensuring personalized psychological support.

To address this issue, REActors offered Luka access to their counseling center, associated with the day center forpeople, who use psychoactive substances. This solution ensures that Luka receives the necessary psychological support in a more conducive environment, coordinated with the psychiatric clinic, thereby providing a tailored approach to meet his needs within REActors’ service framework.


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Protecting your rights and dignity: supporting a client of OST in Ukraine

Threats and cyberbullying against a non-binary person in Kazakhstan

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Response stories

Protecting your rights and dignity: supporting a client of OST in Ukraine

Lyubov (name changed) is a woman living with HIV who used to inject drugs in the past. She is in a civil marriage with a man who is also HIV-positive and has a history of substance use. Both are patients of the OST program. On their way home from the drop-in center, where they had received self-administered medication, the couple was stopped by police officers. They began to humiliate them, treat them rudely, pick their pockets, and search them without any reason.

Although the clients informed the police that they were taking OST and showed all the necessary documents, no one listened to them, and the couple was taken to the police station. The woman called the organization. Upon hearing about such illegal actions of the police, the REActor and a social worker of the organization came to the defense of the couple. They contacted the police by phone with the doctor who had prescribed the drugs. The doctor explained that everything was legal and that the patients had no problems with taking the drugs. After that, the couple was released.

After coming to the organization with words of gratitude, the client refused to seek legal assistance because she did not believe that the police officers would be punished. She was also offered counseling by the organization’s psychologist and group training to restore her psycho-emotional state.


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Justice and dignity: a story of a woman living with HIV in Uzbekistan standing up for her rights

Threats and cyberbullying against a non-binary person in Kazakhstan

Categories
Response stories

Justice and dignity: a story of a woman living with HIV in Uzbekistan standing up for her rights

This story happened to Madina (name changed), a young woman, 40 years old, a representative of the community of people living with HIV, working in a store. One of her colleagues, having learned about her positive HIV status, started spreading the information among all employees. Soon the store manager found out about it and decided to fire Madina without paying her money, claiming that she could have infected everyone during her work.

The woman sought help from a REActor who provided her with counseling, after which she decided to write a statement complaining about the unjustified dismissal. The REActor together with a police officer gave a preventive talk to the store manager and staff about people with HIV status. As a result, the management paid all the money due under the contract.

Madina decided not to return to her previous job and found a new one. This case shows the importance of determination in fighting for one’s rights and against discrimination.


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Threats and cyberbullying against a non-binary person in Kazakhstan

Violation of rights and lack of assistance: a case of discrimination in Moldova

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Response stories

Threats and cyberbullying against a non-binary person in Kazakhstan

An incident that occurred last year and had a continuation in early 2024 related to Aruzhan (name changed). They are 21 years old, non-binary person, LGBTIQ+ activist. A university student saw Aruzhan’s recent posts regarding their civic activities and the attacks associated with them. This student, who was part of a group that had previously cyberbullying and threatening Aruzhan with violence because of their participation in a Pride Flag community event, began posting insults and threats again in a closed group on Telegram under an anonymous nickname.

The insults included derogatory terms and phrases, as well as threats of violence, such as “I’m itching to smack him in the back alley”. Aruzhan’s friend who was a member of the group forwarded screenshots of the messages. The client, despite the fact that they were now out of the attacker’s reach, were very worried about their safety and feared that they might be found and harmed.

This situation is an example of cyber-bullying and threats that violate the human rights to safe existence and protection from discrimination, in particular against LGBTIQ+ persons, and can also have significant psychological and physical consequences.

To protect their rights, Aruzhan sought the help of REActors. In response to the threats and cyberbullying, the REActors prepared and wrote a complaint to the university administration. Cyberbullying and threats of violence are prohibited by law and should be prosecuted. It is important that educational institutions and other institutions protect their students from such actions and create a safe environment for all, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.


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Ethics in question: a case of discrimination in Azerbaijan medicine

Violation of rights and lack of assistance: a case of discrimination in Moldova

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Response stories

Violation of rights and lack of assistance: a case of discrimination in Moldova

Alisa (name changed) contacted the National REActors by phone, asking for help because she was feeling unwell due to substance use. After speaking with the girl, it was recommended to call an ambulance for medical services. On the advice of the REActors, her boyfriend called the paramedics. However, instead of providing prompt assistance, police officers arrived and started to draw up a protocol. As a result, Alisa was fined 1500 lei (85 USD). To her indignation and explanations about her inability to pay the fine, the police officers replied that they could have issued a fine of 5000 lei (284 dollars).

In this case, REActors filed a complaint with the Equality Council to establish discrimination. As a result, the situation was resolved in favor of the client, the fine was challenged and Alisa was exempted from paying it.

This case highlights the need to raise awareness of the rights of key groups and the importance of standing up for their rights regardless of pressure.


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Ethics in question: a case of discrimination in Azerbaijan medicine

Seeking support: a woman living with HIV seeks help from REActors in Tajikistan

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Response stories

Ethics in question: a case of discrimination in Azerbaijan medicine

This case raises important questions about professional ethics, equality, and respect for every patient, regardless of their medical status.

Artur (name changed) addressed the national REActors of Azerbaijan. His story began with an ordinary visit to the dentist, which turned into a series of unpleasant events. The man went to the dentist because his tooth had broken. He hoped for quick and quality help. The doctor took measurements and explained that the only would be ready in a few days. Arthur made an advance payment for the work.

A few days later, the man returned for the finished clay. To his surprise, the dentist said that it was ready, but refused to install it. The reason why the dentist did not want to complete the work was the following: while waiting for the only to be ready, Artur shared with him that on a particular day, he needed to pick up his ART because he was a representative of the community of people living with HIV. The man tried to return the money, but his requests were ignored and he was chased out of the office. In desperation and not knowing where to turn for justice, Artem decided to tell his story to the national REActors of Azerbaijan. The case was taken up by them to achieve justice and solve the client’s problem.


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Seeking support: a woman living with HIV seeks help from REActors in Tajikistan

Violation of patient’s rights: the story of an arrest in an Armenian hospital

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Response stories

Delay in vital therapy: a case from Montenegro

In January 2024, REActors received a complaint from Mateo (name changed) regarding a significant infringement on his right to access necessary treatment. Despite adhering to the protocol for early medication requisition at the designated pharmacy, Mateo was deprived of his essential ART for over ten days.

The gravity of this situation is underscored by the fact that Mateo had requested the medication a week in advance, yet it was not provided on time. REActors’ immediate response involved educating Mateo about his rights and the measures available to protect those rights in such scenarios. It is imperative for patients undergoing critical treatments like HIV therapy to be knowledgeable about their rights.

REActors also launched an independent investigation to ascertain the causes behind the medication delay. Their goal was to collaborate with pharmacy staff and relevant authorities to prevent such issues in the future. In Montenegro, HIV therapy distribution is centralized through a single pharmacy, which is staffed with trained professionals.

Mateo was then advised to file a formal complaint with the ombudsman for patient rights. This step is crucial in addressing such issues and improving healthcare service delivery. This incident highlights the importance of strict adherence to medical protocols and clear communication between healthcare providers and patients. Timely delivery of medication is vital for patients, emphasizing the need for effective resolution mechanisms within the healthcare system.


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Seeking support: a woman living with HIV seeks help from REActors in Tajikistan

A story of harassment and humiliation in Armenia

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Response stories

Seeking support: a woman living with HIV seeks help from REActors in Tajikistan

Zaira (name changed), a 28-year-old woman living with HIV, approached the national REActors on the recommendation of a friend who had heard about their work through social media. The friend said that all services, including legal counseling, were free of charge.

In 2021, Zaira and her friends went to Russia to earn money. She got a job in a bakery and at the same time prepared documents and took the necessary tests. A few days later, she was called to work and informed that she had HIV and was asked to leave the workplace. Zaira planned to go home, but instead, she moved to another city and started working illegally, not believing in her diagnosis.

In the end of 2023, while returning to N, she was told at the airport in Russia that she was deported for life. This news greatly upset Zaira. She shared her situation with a friend who advised her to contact REActor to consult with a lawyer.

After the woman told her story, the REActor provided her with psycho-emotional support and explained what the organization does and what services are provided. She also talked about HIV and AIDS, how the virus is transmitted, and the legal and psychological services available.

The REActor explained to Zaira that she had violated Russian law by not leaving the country promptly and was working illegally, which could have influenced the decision to deport her for life. She also noted that working in a bakery, where there is contact with sharp and cutting objects, could have put herself and others at risk.

The REActor then brought in a lawyer who discussed her legal situation with Zaira. He explained in detail that according to Russian law, migrant workers living with HIV cannot work or stay in Russia. Although this information upset the woman, she expressed her gratitude for the counseling and understanding of the situation. Zaira was also offered further psychological support and possible ways to resolve legal issues related to her status and future employment.


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Violation of patient’s rights: the story of an arrest in an Armenian hospital

A story of harassment and humiliation in Armenia

Categories
Response stories

Violation of patient’s rights: the story of an arrest in an Armenian hospital

Yegan (name changed) wrote to the National REActor about a disturbing situation that happened to his friend. The guy went to the Republican Hospital to take tests before his nose surgery. He is from a community of people who inject drugs (PWID) and while drawing blood, the nurse noticed a blackened vein on his arm. She immediately asked if he was using drugs and the guy, trusting the health worker, answered in the affirmative.

While the blood results were still pending, the patient was sitting in the hallway. Suddenly he was approached by two police officers who, twisting his arms, took him to the station. It turned out that a nurse had called the police and informed them that a man from the PWID community was in the hospital. Yegan said his friend had been arrested and for over ten days at the time of contacting REActors, no information on his condition and whereabouts had been given to him. The case has been accepted for work.

This story highlights the serious violations of patient rights and the unacceptable disclosure of personal medical information. That a nurse felt able to call the police based on a patient’s medical information is a blatant example of ethical and confidentiality violations. Trust in medical personnel is the basis for receiving quality care, and cases like this undermine that trust.

Egan’s friend’s situation also points to the need for reform in the way people who use drugs are treated. Instead of prosecution and arrest, they should be offered medical care and support. Violation of patients’ rights and undue interference of law enforcement agencies in medical issues require attention and solution at the state level.


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An assistance with recovery through OST in Azerbaijan

A story of harassment and humiliation in Armenia

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Response stories

An assistance with recovery through OST in Azerbaijan

The situation happened to Elmira (name changed), a 25-year-old woman from a community of people who use drugs. Her life circumstances were such that she started with light substances, but soon moved on to heavier ones, and this led to addiction. A turning point in her life was the tragic death of her lover from an overdose – this made Elmira decide to stop using. Elmira turned to a REActor. Understanding her desire to quit drugs and change her situation, he helped her access opioid substitution therapy (OST) at the Republican Narcology Center (RNC). With REActor’s support, Elmira began her treatment journey.

The initial stages of treatment were incredibly challenging for Elmira. However, with perseverance and the support of the medical professionals at RNC, she managed to stabilize her condition. Her commitment to the program and the structured support it provided were crucial in helping her navigate the difficulties of withdrawal and recovery.

Today, Elmira stands on the threshold of a better life. She has found employment and has mended her relationship with her parents, rebuilding the connections that had frayed during her years of addiction. Elmira’s journey to recovery highlights the profound impact of access to effective treatment and support systems. Her story is a beacon of hope for others struggling with similar challenges, demonstrating that with the right help, it is possible to overcome addiction. Her story is a powerful testament to the transformative impact of OST and the comprehensive support offered by REActor and the NGO Struggle Against AIDS (SAAPU).


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Empowering equality: fighting discrimination against HIV in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Response stories

Defending the right to medical care in Ukraine

Natalia (name changed) appealed to the documentarian with a complaint against an oncologist who refused to provide medical services. The woman said that she had been referred by her doctor to an oncology clinic for examination, having an electronic referral. At the oncologist’s appointment, she verbally informed him of her HIV-positive status. The doctor refused to conduct an examination and recommended that she see a doctor at the AIDS Center.

The REActor met with the deputy chief physician to discuss the violation of her client’s rights to medical care by the hospital staff member. After listening to the situation, the deputy agreed that the patient’s rights had been violated and had a conversation with the oncologist. After that, Natalia made an appointment for a second visit.

At the appointment, the oncologist conducted the necessary examination and testing. The client received the necessary medical care, which she was initially denied, and can now continue her treatment according to the established plan.


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Solidarity and action: International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

United for equality: IDAHOBIT and the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Categories
News Response stories

Solidarity and action: International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is held annually on the third Sunday of May in many countries around the world. This day was first celebrated in 1983 in the American city of San Francisco. At that time, a symbol of the movement against this disease appeared – a bright red ribbon attached to clothing and colorful quilts made of fabric scraps in memory of people who died prematurely because of AIDS. The red ribbon was created in 1991 by California artist Frank Moore. Every year on this day, people around the world pin it to their clothes to express solidarity with those affected by AIDS and to support efforts to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.

According to the latest UNAIDS statistics, approximately 40 million people are living with HIV worldwide. Thanks to advances in modern medicine, HIV infection has become a manageable chronic disease: antiretroviral therapy (ART) allows people with HIV to live full lives. Nevertheless, in 2022, AIDS will claim the lives of 600,000 people worldwide. The situation with HIV remains particularly challenging in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region. According to UNAIDS, about 1.7 million people are living with HIV, and in recent years there has been an increase in new infections, with ART coverage available to only about 60% of those in need. Despite the existence of treatment and national strategies to ensure access to ART, many barriers remain in EECA that limit ART coverage and lead to an increase in the number of new HIV cases. The main causes of this phenomenon include:

– Stigma and discrimination: high levels of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV discourage many from seeking medical care. People fear disclosure of their HIV status and negative consequences, which prevents timely testing and initiation of treatment. For example, this year in Kazakhstan, REActors recorded a case of a woman disclosing her status in one of the city hospitals. Nursing staff were instructed to put bracelets with personal data, including information on HIV status, on patients’ arms. After investigating the situation, the REActor filed a complaint with the chief physician of the hospital. As a result, an immediate order was issued to remove the confidential information from the bracelets, and the head of the department was reprimanded and then fired due to multiple previous violations, including disregard for patients’ rights. In North Macedonia, an attempt was made to prevent a man living with HIV from continuing to work in his position at a city hospital because of his status. Thanks to the work of national REActors, two complaints were filed: one with the director of the hospital where the man works, and one with the public Health Insurance Fund. As a result, the man was allowed to return to work and his issue has now been fully resolved.

– Limited access to health services: In some countries in the region, health services, including HIV testing and access to ART, are underdeveloped or difficult to access, especially in remote and rural areas.

– Information deficit: lack of information and education on HIV/AIDS leads to many people being unaware of treatment options and the importance of timely testing, as well as the disease itself. In Uzbekistan, a couple was found to be HIV-positive while preparing documents for a civil registry office. This fact, which had not been previously registered, was unauthorized disclosed by medical professionals, causing rumors and condemnation in the surrounding society. National REActors provided comprehensive support to future spouses, including counseling, information, psychological, and legal assistance (they were helped to protect their rights and deal with the responsibility of violators for improper disclosure of confidential information).

– Economic barriers: financial constraints and lack of resources make it difficult to ensure stable and widespread access to ART. In some countries, financial support from international donors is declining, which affects treatment availability or slows down the implementation of effective HIV programs.

These factors combine to create a complex situation in which, even with the availability of programs and the willingness of states to provide treatment, a significant proportion of the population remains unassisted. Greater intersectoral collaboration, increased awareness and reduced stigmatization, and improved access to and quality of health services are needed. An important aspect to improve the situation is to draw public attention to the problem, as on the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Let us remember those who are no longer with us and support those who can be helped!


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United for equality: IDAHOBIT and the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Empowering equality: fighting discrimination against HIV in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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News Response stories

United for equality: IDAHOBIT and the struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) is observed annually on May 17. This day serves to coordinate global efforts to raise awareness about the ongoing violations of LGBTQIA+ rights and to promote actions aimed at their protection. The date commemorates the removal of homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases by the World Health Organization on May 17, 1990. And since 2004, IDAHOBIT has been a crucial platform for highlighting the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals globally.

This year’s theme, “No one left behind: equality, freedom, and justice for all”, calls for unity and solidarity, especially in the face of rising anti-democratic and anti-rights movements. Many LGBTQIA+ individuals continue to endure violence, stigma, and discrimination worldwide. Sixty-two UN member states criminalize consensual same-sex relations, either through laws or practices. At least 59 countries impose restrictions on freedom of expression related to sexual and gender diversity issues, with an alarming increase in such provisions over the past two years. While hate crime laws based on sexual orientation exist in 59 UN member states, only 38 protect against hate crimes based on gender identity, 9 on gender expression, and 5 on sex characteristics.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, LGBTQIA+ rights remain precarious. In 2023 alone, national REActors documented 1109 appeals from representatives of the LGBTQIA+ community in the region. The most common violations of the rights are discrimination, insults, harassment, threats, and, alas, often even assaults. In 2024 already in Armenia, the case was registered when the client met a man on Telegram from an LGBTIQ dating group and agreed to meet him, but the man drove off with the client’s belongings. The next day, he reported the incident to the police but faced harassment about his positive HIV status and military service, authorities’ representatives pressured him to reveal his meeting’s true nature. Only with the REActor’s support, the client was eventually released, and a preliminary investigation was initiated based on his complaint.

Many countries maintain laws that criminalize same-sex relations, and societal attitudes are often deeply conservative, leading to widespread discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA+ individuals. In some nations, LGBTQIA+ activism is met with significant resistance, and legal protections are minimal or nonexistent. Governments in this region have been slow to adopt reforms, and in some cases, have actively curtailed LGBTQIA+ rights. For instance, russia’s “gay propaganda” law, enacted in 2013, prohibits the distribution of information about LGBTQIA+ issues to minors, effectively silencing advocacy and increasing stigma. And in 2023 russia’s government unanimously supported new legislation to further restrict freedom of expression regarding sexual orientation and gender identityIt prohibits sharing positive and even neutral information about LGBTQIA+ people with hefty fines for noncompliance. In 2023, the President of Kyrgyzstan signed a law prohibiting the dissemination in the country of information that may be harmful to children. The document states that such information is defined as that which “denies family and traditional social values, promotes non-traditional sexual relations and forms disrespect for parents or other family members. A worrying situation has emerged in Georgia: the ruling party has proposed changes to the constitution that would restrict LGBTQIA+ rights. These measures could jeopardize the country’s accession to the EU. If the constitutional amendments are adopted, any LGBTQIA+ related gatherings will become illegal. The legislative initiative would also ban same-sex marriage, sex reassignment and adoption of children by same-sex couples.

Nevertheless, there have been positive strides. According to the Rating Sociological Group, in Ukraine, as of 2023, the level of tolerance in society during the war has increased: positive and neutral attitudes toward the LGBTQIA+ community have increased from 53% to 64%. A petition in support of registered partnerships for same-sex and different-sex couples in support of draft law No. 9103 “On the Institute of Registered Partnerships” as of April 26, 2023, has collected the required 25 thousand votes. Now it is up to President Zelenskyy to consider it.

Worldwide, 16 UN member states have implemented national bans on so-called «conversion therapies», and 9 have nationwide restrictions on unnecessary interventions for intersex youth. Seventeen UN member states recognize legal gender changes based on self-determination, and 35 have legalized marriage equality.

In light of these challenges, this year’s IDAHOBIT theme underscores the importance of solidarity in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. The push for equality, freedom, and justice is fundamental to building a democratic society where everyone is valued, respected, and is not left behind.


Also read:

A test of strength: fighting for truth and justice in Armenia

Empowering equality: fighting discrimination against HIV in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Categories
Response stories

Empowering equality: fighting discrimination against HIV in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alen (name changed) reached out to the NGO “Partnerships in Health”, about his positive HIV status (with which he has lived for 13 years). His disclosure to his employer led to adverse treatment, including an abrupt halt in his work attendance without explanation. Initially, his department head indicated work was unnecessary, assuring him of continued salary, a situation enduring 13 years, leaving Alen increasingly isolated and eager to return to work.

Attempting to resume work and address potential social exclusion, Alen contacted his employer, only to be instructed to stay home, contrary to his hopes. After 20 years of service, the company mandated a disability pension assessment without specific reasons. Despite a medical certificate affirming his job fitness, regardless of his HIV status, Alen faces potential discrimination and ambiguity regarding the disability assessment and his workplace exclusion, raising concerns about employment law and anti-discrimination regulations.

To confront these issues, “Partnerships in Health” commits to supporting Alen comprehensively by engaging in legal representation. An attorney will offer legal counsel and serve as Alen’s representative in related legal proceedings to resolve employment issues effectively. This proactive approach underscores the organization’s dedication to safeguarding Alen’s rights and addressing complexities through legal channels. Advising Alen against the assessment presently and urging written communication with his employer the attorney aims to gather evidence for potential future legal action. “Partnerships in Health” remains steadfast in its mission to uphold the rights of individuals facing discrimination, ensuring equitable treatment in the workplace.


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A test of strength: fighting for truth and justice in Armenia

“I have my right to work”: the resilience of a person living with HIV working in a hospital in North Macedonia

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Response stories

Strength and сourage: fighting HIV discrimination in Uzbekistan

Solila (name changed), a 39-year-old woman, faced a serious problem at work because of her HIV-positive status. She worked in the kitchen, washing dishes in a small restaurant. One day at work, she had a conflict and a fight with one of her coworkers over spreading information about her HIV status.

After the incident, the management fired her. On REActor’s advice, the woman wrote a statement to the authorities. Initially, it was not accepted, but after the paralegal’s intervention, it was accepted.

Unfortunately, she could not be reinstated, as the owner of the establishment refused to take her back, explaining that other employees refused to work with her because of her HIV status. However the former colleague with whom the conflict occurred was fined and fired.

Despite all the difficulties, the woman found a new job and continues to live and work, overcoming discrimination and showing an example of resilience and courage.


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A test of strength: fighting for truth and justice in Armenia

Combating violence against women in Tajikistan: a path to change