December 30, 2010

End of the year, beginning of new era

This is the time when we finalized this year and now we are getting ready for new challenges. During these 3 years we managed to break silence and organized groundbreaking events regarding sexual health and human rights, we promoted peace and tolerance, and this is still beginning.

We want to thank all our members, volunteers and friends for support and for being with us.

Happy New Year and PINKest wishes to us all

December 6, 2010

Silence is not a solution

World AIDS day – this is the day when the world wears red ribbon and takes actions to stop AIDS.

World AIDS Day in Armenia – this is the day when not all Armenians but at least several NGOs are raising the worldwide issue in the country. Since 2008 those NGOs work together, organize joint events and build stronger capacity for HIV awareness, prevention, treatment, care and human rights protection. Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO (PINK Armenia) is one of them.

This year UNAIDS, UNDP and Mission East Armenian Branch supported local organizations to conduct joint event dedicated to the World AIDS Day. Event was prepared due to the World AIDS Campaign’s slogan “Universal Access and Human Rights”. PINK Armenia together with Real World Real People, Women Resource Center, Positive People Armenian Network, National Center for AIDS Prevention, Education in the Name of Health, Armenian Red Cross Society and Public Health Information Statistics created booklets with stories, telling the cases of human rights violations addressed to the people living with HIV, men having sex with men, sex workers, migrants, injecting drug users, women, the problems that they face in families, at workplace and in general in the society. The booklet was available during the UNAIDS press conference on December 1st for journalists, parliamentarians, civil society representatives and other guests.

That day, from early morning we gathered in front of the building housing many of the country’s Ministries, and set up special windows that carried the message “Open and see who can be affected by AIDS.” When people opened the window they saw themselves in the mirror, the meaning was that anybody can be infected with HIV. Usually people think that AIDS is not their problem, only drug users, “bad” women or gays can be affected by AIDS. We wanted to show that there are no risky people, but there is risky behavior that any of us can have. Mostly governmental employees didn’t pay attention, either they were late or they thought it was some action against them.

Later that day, we marched in the central streets of Yerevan, distributing info materials and spreading the message “Silence is not a solution”. During the march we had flashmobs with panels, when we put those panels together we had the slogan of the event and on the other side red ribbon. In front of the march participants were holding big red ribbon made of balloons. In the end of march, near the Opera House, we had the last flashmob there and blew up the balloons to break the silence.

To compare, if last year young people were passing by and asking: “Why are you having this event? We don’t have AIDS in Armenia,” this year people were more aware.

For HIV prevention there are 3 main steps: awareness, advocacy and behavior. Now we know about HIV, also awareness raising actions are widely spread in the country to inform about the ways of transmission and how to prevent it, but do we behave safer? That is the reason that we have a lot to do in order to prevent the practicing of risky behavior. And which is the most important – never keep silence, talk about it, ask if you don’t know and inform others when you are aware, protect your rights and help to advocate for others’ rights as well.

December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day: Challenges Facing Armenia


Today is World AIDS Day—the day of the year when the world’s attention is temporarily fixated on a social phenomenon that has stolen the lives of millions of people around the world over the last 30 years.

But there is some good news. A new report by the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that the AIDS epidemic is beginning to change course as the number of people newly infected with HIV is declining and AIDS-related deaths are decreasing.

Yet, despite important advances over the last 10 years, some 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV last year. Africa continues to be the region most affected by the epidemic. But now a new trend is emerging: In seven countries, mostly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, new HIV infection rates have increased by 25 percent in recent years.

Here’s the bad news. ARMENIA is #1 on that list. In our motherland, the epidemic is concentrated primarily among people who inject drugs, sex workers, gay men, and other men who have sex with men. It is no coincidence the epidemic is spreading in populations that are socially marginalized and politically irrelevant. Stigma, discrimination, and violence against LGBT Armenians and other vulnerable groups fuel the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Today, this injustice is tainting the moral character of our resilient people. The Armenian government, civil society groups, the private sector, the church, and the media all have a critical role to play in respond to our generation’s greatest challenge. And so do we.

As diaspora, we must face up to this new reality. We have a responsibility to raise awareness in our homes and in our communities—in schools, with lawmakers, community leaders, the media, and the church. Above all, we must support our courageous brothers and sisters working in our homeland each and every day for equality and social justice.

Get involved—write a letter to your local Armenian newspaper, encourage community leaders to raise awareness at events and support NGOs in Armenia fighting the good fight.


Jirair Ratevosian, MPH, is based in Washington D.C. He chairs the International Health Advocacy and Policy Committee of the American Public Health Association and is deputy director of public policy for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.

source: Asbarez Armenian News

October 25, 2010

"Stop violence" with... violence. P.S. re recent abuse and violence scandals in Armenia

via Unzipped

Starting with the case of that Nubarashen school pedophile teacher, then army and school abuse videos, and then the highly publicised recent domestic violence case, what I noticed - not infrequently - that some people, even among ‘stop violence’ campaigners, in the heat of emotional debate call for lynching of those suspected in abuse or violence.

Yes, it’s understandable that emotions may run high, and things may be said (but not meant to) in the midst of heated debate or as an immediate emotional reaction to horrific crimes.... But you simply can’t fight violence with violence. This will not solve any problems. Instead, it will ensure a vicious circle of everlasting violence.

Let’s take a very recent example of domestic violence in Armenia, that rightly resulted in an outrage, and petition was launched (I supported and signed it) calling for law against domestic violence.

In total, there were 3196 signatures with/without comments, now passed to the prime minister.

A friend of mine disturbed by certain comments posted on the petition 'Armenia Must Pass Domestic Violence Legislation', compiled a list of all of those signatories (28 in total) who "wished bodily violence and death upon the husband and/or mother-in-law of Zaruhi Petrosyan". He rightly pointed out that “we need to prevent domestic violence, not practice lynch mob rule”.

It is also disturbing that a person (e.g. petition signatory 3179, screenshot below) would use a slanderous and bigoted term about a sexual minority group to express his anger over a domestic violence issue. This ‘injustice by injustice’ approach totally devalues his own signature.

Thankfully, 28 comments make up less than 1% of the total number of signatories.

Interesting geographical distribution of such comments: 22 of the 28 comments came from California(!); 2 from Armenia; 1 from Turkey, Australia each; and 1 from the states of Wisconsin and Florida each. As friend commented, “Americans seem to be the most 'stop violence with violence' a country where the death sentence is practiced regularly, but I am not sure about in California....”

Below are just few selected extracts to demonstrate the point.
No. 3,152 They should be thrown in jail and beaten so it's a lesson to others.
No. 2,787 I would beat the living hell out of this prick and set his mother on fire!
No. 2,763 That man and his disgusting mother should be beaten the same way and crushed to death.
No. 2,553 Maybe it's not only time to sign a petition, maybe it's time to personally fight back. Go get your bats and your guns, grab your pots and your pans, they work too, and turn around and do what Madea says. Beat them back!!
No. 2,406 This mother and son should be charge with first degree murder and death penalty sentense for them they should hang in middle of town
No. 1,815 Put a piece of cloth in his mouth take him toYerevan city square and pull his nails in front of the public then hang him
Or, for example, No. 484:
In the past, I heard of Arab females being stoned to death and even seen a true story about it "The Stoning of Soraya M". But I never heard an Armenian version of it. I can't believe beating an individual to death still occures with a mother-in-law having to be the main suspect.
Saying that, and presumably considering it deploring, she then continues:
It's sad to say, but in my personal opinion I believe she should get beaten the same way and let along to die. Don't only stick a dirty peice of cloth in her mouth, but stick in up her ass. The mother-in-law as well as her xangarvats son need to die exectution style. The best method for these types of people is Iranian style "stone to death".
Rule of law, education, trainings, changes in law, and similar measures... that's what I'd like to see instead.

September 25, 2010

Round table, sharp corners

LGBT rights in Armenia

Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) Armenia Branch organized a round table discussion on Armenia’s LGBT community (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders) problems and possible ways of their solution which took place at their office on 24 September, 2010.

Representatives of Armenia’s Ombudsman office, police, ministries of justice and labor and social affairs, government officials, as well as representatives of local and international human rights organizations, media and LGBT community were invited to take part in the round table discussion.

Three ministries promised to send representatives but their promises never came true. It is not the first time in our experience that Ministry of Health refused to take part in the discussion with regard to this issue; both MOH and Ombudsman office reaction was: “What does this have to do with us?” Anyway we were informed that Edurd Pilatov from the Human Rights Defender office arrived, registered, then left for smoking and disappeared as a phantom.

The discussion has opened Sara Khojoyan, the author of the article “Armenian Gays Face Intolerance, Discrimination” published in July, 2010. Then Mamikon Hovsepyan, president of Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO (PINK Armenia) introduced the outcomes of organization’s sociological research and legal analysis implemented and presented in May this year.

In his speech M. Hovsepyan mentioned that homosexuality exists in the whole period of the history, and each society in the world accepts it in a unique way. Intolerance is based on the traditions, norms and social memory. He also presented the ways of discrimination in the country and those fields where LGBT rights are being violated.

The next speaker, Lusine Vayachyan, writer, human rights activist, presented the situation of transsexual people in Armenia and problems of sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

She recalled a friend of hers, Norayr, a citizen of Armenia who wants to change his sex from female to male, who went to see an endocrinologist who, after running chromosomal tests determind Norayr as having female chromosomes, advised him to go see a psychiatrist for “treatment.” When Norayr mentioned that being transsexual is no longer considered a mental disorder and he does not need to be “treated,” the endocrinologist advised him to go to Russia. Norayr has “never met a doctor in Armenia who knows what it is to be transsexual.”

Vayachyan further added that doctors in Armenia either don’t know or don’t want to know the difference between transsexuals and hermaphrodites.

The representative of PINK Armenia mentioned that discrimination against LGBT people occurs in all facets of life: at school and at work, in military service, while seeking healthcare services, and so on.

Despite the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homsexuality from their list of mental disorders in 1990, according to Hovespyan, Armenia does not prescribe to the WHO criteria and still labels homosexuality as a mental disorder. Thus, gay men in Armenia can be exempt from military service if they state their sexual orientation.

Hovsepyan recalled an occasion when a group of officers had called out derogatory terms referring to gays to a man on the street who had then actually filed a complaint with the Ombdusman on July 1, 2009 (complaint no. 1–0508). However, the RA Police replied to the letter of Ombudsman in which they described the incident much more mildly saying the man was simply brought in for questioning for 5 minutes and had his identity checked by checking his passport. According to Hovsepyan, the Ombudsman believed the police’s word over the victim’s even though the man didn’t even have his passport on him that day.

“Why do they trust the letter by the police and not by the citizen?” Hovsepyan asked.

Furthermore, he said that when IWPR representative Sara Khojoyan asked the Ombudsman if there were any complaints by LGBT people registered with their office, the Human Rights Defender had said no. Drawing on the incident he mentioned, Hovsepyan said, “Let them not say there were no complaints.”

Mamikon Hovsepyan added that discrimination also occurs in the media — through news stories that ridicule, criticize and demean the lives and experiences of LGBT people in Armenia. In many cases media gives wrong information to their auditorium about sexual orientation and gender identity, journalists promote hate in their speeches.

He mentioned the example of A1+ that it was one of the most tolerant and highly appreciated media in Armenia though it became an ordinary one nowadays which is providing information that is discriminatory or making fun of LGBT people.

Sevak Kirakosyan, one of the participants, recalled the journalists to use proper terms which do not harm or violate LGBT rights and human dignity, and Lusine Vayachyan asked to invite representatives from the Language Inspector next time, because we still do not have translation of words and phrases regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and each of us are using different terms.

in this article is included information from Independent Journalists’ Network aritcles:
“Why Does Ombudsman Trust Police and Not Appeal by Citizen?” Asks Hovsepyan
Transsexual Men, Women in Armenia Advised to Go Abroad
I Would Rather be Labelled Crazy Than be Raped in the Army’: Gay Men in Armenia

September 23, 2010

Support women living with HIV

Each culture during different periods of its history perceived gender and sexuality in a unique way. In fact our understanding about gender norms and sexuality is formed under the influence of various factors, such as traditions, policy, and religion. This gender roles and stereotypes have their influence on the circumstance how man and women behave during sexual relations.

Today in Republic of Armenia girls and women face gender discrimination, including gender violence, they are forced to implement traditional roles, have limitations in family planning possibilities.

Each of us has sexual rights, which includes sexual education, right to get information about infections and healthcare. Existing traditions and stereotypes about gender roles do not give an opportunity to women and girls to ensure the realization of their sexual and reproductive rights. The society expects woman to have passive role in issues regarding sexuality. As a rule women are criticized, stigmatized and discriminated if they try to make decisions with regard to their sexual life. The society does not accept when woman tries to take care of her health, have safe sexual behavior, make decisions about family planning due to the prejudiced attitude toward women’s active role in sexual life.

In case if we talk about gender equality and that each member of the society has to have equal opportunities, this kind of attitudes must be changed. When we talk about gender equality we can’t miss the fact that equality must be in all spheres of life including sexual life. There is a need to eliminate discrimination and break stereotypes by ensuring woman’s sexual and reproductive rights. Women have right to get appropriate, comprehensive information and education about sexual and reproductive health, which will give them an opportunity to make balanced decisions about their sexual life, protect their and their future children’s health.

The gaps in sexual and reproductive health education and vulnerable state of rights lead to the situation where many people in Armenian society do not consider themselves vulnerable in terms of HIV. Due to stereotypes and prejudice woman does not have a right to make decisions about her sexual and reproductive health, which makes her double vulnerable.

So we can conclude that societal stereotypes about the role of woman in sexual life put her and her future baby’s health under a threat and under the risk to be infected by HIV.

When we talk about woman vulnerability in terms of HIV there is a need to talk about female sex worker’s vulnerable and endangered situation as well. Sex workers face stereotyped and discriminative public attitude, which leads to their marginalization in the society. That brings to the vulnerable state of sex workers with regard to HIV infection.

Sew workers are not protected by law. They are not protected from violent actions of the ones who use their services. Those sex workers who undergo violence have few chances to be protected by the state. The lack of protection put sex workers under the risk of violence and in such environment HIV can easily spread.

It is also important to mention that due to stereotypes sex workers are deprived from healthcare, legal and social services. Due to discrimination and stereotypes they can have fear of applying to appropriate services. In this case they are more possessed to be infected by HIV and transmit it to the ones who use their services.

Marine Margaryan

July 19, 2010

Now more than ever: human rights march and rally

The Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Now More Than Ever campaign will march and rally for human rights at 18th International AIDS Conference on July 20, 2010 in Vienna.

Internationally acclaimed singer songwriter and long-time AIDS activist Annie Lennox will headline an historic rally in downtown Vienna. The march and rally will feature a memorable live musical performance by Lennox and provide an opportunity for people to demonstrate their commitment to protecting human rights and stopping the spread of HIV.

The event will consist of a 30-minute peaceful march in downtown Vienna to a public rally with government leaders, human rights and AIDS advocates, and people affected by HIV. Following the speeches, Annie Lennox will give a special presentation of her SING Campaign, which will include a musical performance and some short films highlighting the issues that surround HIV and AIDS.

The event will highlight the central role of human rights in the response to HIV. It will focus on the human rights of people living with HIV and of those affected by HIV, especially women and young people, gay, lesbian, and transgender people; and people who engage in sex work or who use drugs. It will focus on the global AIDS struggle as well as pressing concerns in Austria.

"Together we will give a voice to the voiceless," Annie Lennox.

July 18, 2010

XVIII International AIDS Conference

The International AIDS Conference is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. It is a chance to assess where we are, evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learnt, and collectively chart a course forward. The 18th International AIDS conference theme is Rights Here, Right Now, emphasizing the central importance of protecting and promoting human rights as a prerequisite to a successful response to HIV.

About 25,000 researchers, policymakers, and activists are attending the six-day biennial International AIDS Conference, which begins on July 18 in Vienna. Speakers include former US president Bill Clinton and Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

The conference will focus in part on G8 countries' commitments to sustain the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. IAC is also expected to draw attention to human rights abuses in countries with laws that target and stigmatize persons living with HIV, as well as the dire situation in some parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where the spread of HIV has been particularly rapid.

Saturday, before the conference was set to open, celebrities gathered for Vienna's annual AIDS dinner and Life Ball. Clinton was present, along with Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg, singer Patti Labelle and German tennis legend Boris Becker.

The AIDS 2010 programme will present new scientific knowledge and offer many opportunities for structured dialogue on the major issues facing the global response to HIV. A variety of session types – from abstract-driven presentations to symposia, bridging sessions and plenaries – will meet the needs of various participants. Other related activities, including the Global Village, satellite meetings, exhibitions and affiliated events, will contribute to an exceptional opportunity for professional development and networking. Following the success of the pilot programme at AIDS 2008, the 18th International AIDS Conference will provide or facilitate hubs (centres) where selected sessions of the conference will be screened, to increase the access to the conference programme.

UN Millennium Development Goals set 2010 as the target for universal treatment for HIV/AIDS by everyone who needs it, but that deadline has not been met.

Some 4.7 million people in the world received HIV treatment at the end of 2008, only 42 per cent of those who needed it, according to UNAIDS.

Worldwide, there were some 33.4 million people living with HIV in 2008. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to 67 per cent of all people with the AIDS virus, is the most affected region.

In Europe, Ukraine has the highest rate of HIV infection, at 1.6 per cent.

Activists say that governments are backtracking from funding for the treatment, both domestically and internationally.

"It seems that the political leadership is losing interest," said Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), the conference organizer.

Michel Sidibe, the head of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said universal access was "a fight for human justice."

He urged a "prevention revolution" that would lead to development of a single pill for treatment of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

MSF@IAC2010 informs that after a decade of important progress on AIDS treatment in developing countries, donors are walking away from AIDS when 10 million people are still waiting for treatment.

MSF is speaking out to urge donors to reaffirm their promises now and provide timely treatment to all in need.

July 17, 2010

Be heard! Global Forum on MSM & HIV

The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) starts the 4th pre-conference on July 17, 2010 to the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna Austria. This one-day event explores the challenges and best practices in achieving universal access to HIV-related prevention, care, treatment, and support services for sexual minority communities worldwide.

Be Heard! convenes 450 human rights advocates, artists, researchers, public health officials, multi-lateral organizations, and global donors for a day of workshops, skills building, information exchange, and networking sessions. The MSM pre-conference will be followed by an evening networking reception.

MSMGF recommends a rights-based and person-centered approach to developing guidelines that will help transgender persons receive non-discriminatory, non-judgmental and quality health care. There has been an international wave of advocacy calling on authorities such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and World Health Organization (WHO) to depathologize transgender identities. Pathologizing gender identity variance as a ‘psychiatric disorder’ only perpetuates the stigma, discrimination and violence that these individuals experience around the world.

As a global advocacy organization working for the health and human rights of men who have sex with men (MSM), the MSMGF is familiar with stigma within health system structures and its negative impact on individuals and communities. For instance, the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder by institutions such as the APA until 1973 and the WHO until 1993 helped endorse discrimination against gay men and other MSM at multiple levels. Stigma and discrimination impact health by heightening HIV risk factors, including social isolation, and compromising access to HIV prevention, care and treatment services. Transgender persons are also the targets of stigma and discrimination that can be exacerbated by a mental diagnosis, ultimately resulting in compromised health and wellness.

July 15, 2010

Make it happen! The Vienna YouthForce pre-conference

On July 14 the Vienna YouthForce begins its three-day pre-conference, an event open to young people attending the 18th International AIDS Conference. The pre-conference conists of informative sessions and skills-building workshops on HIV and AIDS issues ranging from scientific knowledge to effective political advocacy.

The pre-conference brings together more than 300 young activists and researchers from 100 different countries to prepare youth delegates to be effective advocates on issues that affect them. All the activities are organized in partnership with other activists and organizations who voluntarily participate on various different committees.

Public Information and Need of Knowledge Armenian NGO is presented by Marine Margaryan, NGO's projects coordinator.

Every two years, tens of thousands of experts, advocates and decision-makers gather for the international AIDS conference, the largest health-related event in the world. With each conference, young people, who have so much at stake in addressing this issue, have been playing an increasingly large role in the proceedings.

The overall theme for the conference is Rights Here! Right Now. The advocacy campaign of the Vienna YouthForce focuses on the 3 HRs: human rights, harm reduction and health resources.

June 15, 2010

Armenian LGBT group in New York at NYC gay pride march

This year on June 27, Armenian Gay & Lesbian Association of New York (AGLA NY) will participate in 2010 NYC gay pride march.

Join AGLA NY as we March in the 2010 NYC Pride March!
Last year AGLA NY had a great group of marchers and this year we hope to make it even better!

The March began as an annual civil rights demonstration beginning the year after the Stonewall Riots in 1970. Over the years its purpose has broadened to include recognition of the fight against AIDS and to remember those we have lost to the illness, violence and neglect. It has also evolved to include being a celebration of our lives and our community. For more info on the March visit:
source: AGLA NY

May 17, 2010

Rainbow Flash in Yerevan

This year PINK Armenia joined the international RainbowFlash event to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).

On May 17, 2010, we organized rainbow flashmob with balloons in the center of Yerevan with the support of our friends and partner organizations.

Colorful balloons flied in the sky as a symbolic move to combat hate, ignorance and intolerance, to combat homophobia and transphobia.

Watch the video

May 16, 2010

Many lights for human rights

Old friends were again together to light their candles for those people who passed away from AIDS. This year AIDS Candlelight Memroial was celebrated on May 16. Positive People Armenian Network, Real World Real People with Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO conducted the event "Many Lights for Human Rights".

We started event at 6pm, when everybody gathered at Cascade. Participants took part in sewing the quilt which had 207 pieces, exactly the number of people who have died from AIDS.

Later we all lighted the candles, and let the red and white balloons fly in the air. There were different messages on the balloons promoting tolerence toward people living with HIV.

May 1, 2010

"We and Our Rights" presentation

On 4 May 2010 at 11am (+4GMT), there will be a presentation and discussion of the results of legal analysis and sociological research conducted within the framework of “We and Our Rights” project by “Public Information and Need of Knowledge” (PINK Armenia) NGO and supported by Counterpart International’s Armenia representation.

The project aimed to collect data concerning cases of discrimination and rights violation toward LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in Armenia and to find out to what extent legislation of Republic of Armenia regulates LGBT rights protection and their responsibilities.

Guests from governmental institutions, international and non-governmental organizations and also from diplomatic missions of different countries in Armenia are invited to the meeting.

To be a part of this event, add 'pinkarmenia' in your skype contact list and follow @pinkarmenia on twitter

April 16, 2010

The Day of Silence

The Day of Silence is a student-led national event in USA that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take some form of a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior. The event is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of this bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.

In 1996, students at the University of Virginia, USA organized the first Day of Silence in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests. Over 150 students participated in this inaugural DOS. In 1997, organizers took their effort nationally and nearly 100 colleges and universities participated. In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the event.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

For more information visit: Day of Silence

April 13, 2010

HIV/AIDS stigma as a major challenge in achieving universal access

Since the face case of HIV/AIDS was reported in the world, the pandemic has change the behavior of the world, the disease has killed 25 million people and infected 40 million more. It has become one of the world’s leading causes of death among both women and men aged between 15 and 59. It has inflicted the single greatest reversal in the history of human development. In other words, it has become the greatest challenge of our generation.

As the number of infections continues to increase, stigma and discrimination remains a formidable challenge to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support. HIV/AIDS-related stigma and its associated discrimination affect all aspects of HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. HIV thrives in an environment of ignorance and erodes social support for infected people, which is access to information, support, economic and legal services.

One lesson we have learnt in the Care and Support Project is that stigma and discrimination promotes the culture of silence – people fear to talk about HIV ands AIDS, let alone disclose there status. Stigma, discrimination, Poverty and denial, as well as lack of confidentiality, contributes to a climate of fear. This undermines prevention, care and treatment efforts and further increases the impact of the epidemic on individuals, families, communities and society at large.

The impact of stigma on the affected individual can lead to depression, guilt and shame, as well as to behaviour that limits participation within communities and access to services intended to assist them. HIV/AIDS-related stigma constantly reminds members of the discriminated groups that they are social outcasts or even deserve to be punished. If people are mocked or treated with hostility, they may feel uncared for and are therefore less likely to take steps to protect themselves.

HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination is a major obstacle to effective prevention and care for it can prevent governments (national authorities) from getting a true picture of the burden of the pandemic because people are not coming forward for testing, care and support. This compromises planning, allocation of resources and provision of services to people with HIV and for people from other highly vulnerable groups.

Stigma and discrimination hinders prevention interventions by fostering ignorance about facts on HIV. HIV/AIDS-related stigma discourages people to get tested or when they get tested, from returning for their test results. Some avoid clinics known to be testing for HIV. Others believe that the fact that they have been tested it will eventually reach the rest of the community.

The fear of being stigmatized results in women, men and young people being unable to look after their sexual and reproductive health – accessing sexual health information, treatment and methods for HIV and STI prevention, such as the condom use. Some infected individuals may choose not to change or adapt their behaviour to reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission for fear that such a change would arouse suspicion and stigma. Stigma by health-care providers nurses, doctors impacts on access to treatment in health centers and hospitals. Some medical workers, in an attempt to avoid having contact with people living with HIV/AIDS or provide care, pass patient from one health worker to another or from one hospital to another.

Stigma and discrimination has made the medical management of HIV and AIDS very stressful despite efforts to create more awareness. Social stigmatization of the disease frustrates efforts to apply the most effective medical interventions in the management of HIV and AIDS, counseling, testing and treatment. It causes individuals to shy away from tests hence treatment is delayed or not received at all. Delayed treatment can contribute to the continued spread of the Virus because people do not know their status.

Reducing stigma and discrimination is crucial to the success of Universal Access to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, care and support programmes, as the quality of such programmes can and do depend on the degree at which health centers and hospitals welcome and respect the rights of the individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

Hon. Ibekwe Alexander
Director, Health Link Organization
South East Coordinator, Association of Positive Youth in Nigeria (APYIN)
Chiarman Director of Health National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN)
source: Global Network of Poeple living with HIV

April 1, 2010

All 47 Counsil of Europe countries unanimously agree on historic human rights recommendations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

On March 31, 2010 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, representing the national governments of its 47 Member States, unanimously adopted historic Recommendations on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the world’s first intergovernmental agreement codifying the application of human rights standards to LGBT people.

The Recommendations establish how international human rights standards should be applied to LGBT people and contain specific measures for Member States on how they should improve their legislation, policies and practices to address discrimination against LGBT people in such areas as

- hate crime and hate speech;
- freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly;
- right to respect for private and family life;
- employment;
- education;
- health;
- housing;
- sports;
- right to seek asylum.

Additionally, the Recommendations prescribe that Member States should ensure that national human rights structures are clearly mandated to address discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. They also encourage Member States to address multiple discrimination experienced by LGBT people.

ILGA-Europe’s only regret is that the Member States did not go as far as we hoped for in some areas, particularly family rights.

Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:
“This is a truly historical development! For the first time in history the European continent came together to codify human rights’ applications to LGBT people. As we celebrate this landmark in European human rights history, we also hope that these Recommendations will help to advance the human rights for LGBT people beyond Europe. ”

Linda Freimane, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, added:
“These Recommendations go well beyond the current situation in many European countries for LGBT people and will surely serve as a blueprint for our members in working with their national governments. We will also follow closely the three year review mechanism agreed by the Committee of Ministers to ensure the full implementation. Finally, we encourage the Council of Europe to organise a campaign among its Member States to promote these Recommendations.”

The Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe's decision-making body. It comprises the Foreign Affairs Ministers of all the Member States, or their permanent diplomatic representatives in Strasbourg.

The full text of the Recommendations is available on the Committee of Minister’s website.

Armenia: Gays live with threats of violence, abuse [EurasiaNet report]

Two years after Yerevan signed an international agreement to uphold the civil rights of gays, homosexuals in Armenia still face the constant threat of physical abuse and social isolation because of their sexual orientation.

"When my parents learned that I was homosexual, they first beat me and then kicked me out," Armen, a 22-year-old Yerevan resident who works as a teacher, told "Even now, after years have gone by, my mother doesn’t let me in, and some of my friends keep asking whether I’m really one of ’those’ people."

Armen (not his real name) says he realized he was gay at the age of 13 when he fell in love with his classmate. He met his first boyfriend in an online chat room when he was 20.

"I introduced him to my parents as just one of my friends. But one day my mother saw me kissing him, and that’s when all this started," Armen said. "My mother yelled that I’d better be dead, and my brother left the army to come home and beat me. So I went to live in the streets." Armen now lives with his grandmother.

Homosexuality has not been a criminal offense in Armenia since 2003; two years ago, the country signed the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which asserts the right to equal treatment regardless of sexual orientation or gender. It has also ratified a protocol to the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms that bans all forms of discrimination.

But gay Armenians are still often the targets of discrimination. Aside from the risk of losing work, homosexuals face becoming social outcasts - a heavy burden in Armenia’s communal, family-centric culture. Some families have been known to emigrate to escape the stigma of having a gay family member. Similar social prejudices prevail in neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan as well.

The United States Department of State’s 2009 Human Rights Report described the Armenian public’s views on gays as "highly unfavorable;" homosexuality is "largely" seen as "an affliction," the report found. [For additional information click here].

"Armenia has always been intolerant toward homosexuals," commented Mikael Danielian, the chairperson of the Helsinki Association of Armenia, a human rights non-governmental organization.

Danielian says that his organization regularly receives alarming calls about attacks on suspected homosexuals. But criminal cases for the assaults usually are not filed because victims are afraid of publicity and additional public scorn, he said.

"Frankly speaking, we cannot do anything in these cases," Danielian said. Sometimes, gays who have been the alleged victims of discrimination simply want attacks mentioned in the organization’s reports, he added.

One recent assault was reported in mid-February when local media outlets claimed that Yerevan Mayor Gagik Beglarian had ordered police officers to use force against suspected homosexuals and transvestites who allegedly routinely gathered in a park adjacent to the mayor’s office. Yerevan mayor spokesperson Anzhela Martirosian declined to comment on the reports, maintaining that the incident "didn’t concern the mayor’s functions."

One new political group has welcomed what it sees as the mayor’s decision to rid the Armenian capital of homosexuals. The National Conservative Movement, a small right-wing party founded last year, hailed Mayor Beglarian as a "true Armenian man" and urged supporters to continue attacking homosexuals.

Gay rights and violence against homosexuals are not issues that other political parties -- whether members of Armenia’s governing coalition, or in the opposition -- discuss publicly.

The Armenian Apostolic Church is similarly reticent. Father Vahram Melikian, spokesperson for the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church, identified homosexuality as "a sin" and "negative phenomenon."

"[B]ut even these people can be granted absolution and come back to the right path," Father Melikian said.
Anti-gay attitudes appear to run particularly strong in the military. Since 2004, gays have been exempted from military service for supposedly being mentally ill.

One man, who gave his name as Narek, told that an army officer had beaten him when he revealed his homosexuality during a psychiatric exam for military service. Narek claims that he spent three days in a mental hospital and was discharged from military service with the diagnosis of a "personality disorder."

One non-governmental organization, Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK Armenia), was formed in 2007. It aims to raise awareness about minority rights, and advocates for a break with traditional prejudices. "We live in an atmosphere where people are full of hateful words against homosexuals, and this drives them to commit hate crimes," commented Marina Margarian, PINK Armenia’s project coordinator. "An atmosphere exists where being gay is a terrible disgrace and beating a gay person is an honorable act."

Given the fear of reprisals, many Armenian homosexuals try to keep their contacts with other gays as discreet as possible. The members-only Armenian gay social network thoroughly scrutinizes a candidate’s personal data before admitting him as a member. The website has about 1,000 registered users, half of whom live in Armenia.

"The access to the website is limited for security reasons because many people were afraid to place their photos. And we had to create a place where homosexual men could meet safely," said founder Micha Meroujean.

Reason exists for such caution, states one gay young man, who claims that some his friends were badly beaten by unknown assailants after trying to establish contact with an allegedly gay man through an online dating service.

Chances for change appear slim. Said Meroujean, who emigrated from Armenia to Europe to escape mistreatment: "Society’s bad attitude again and again shoves Armenia’s homosexuals into the closet."

Marianna Grigoryan
freelance reporter based in Yerevan

source: EurasiaNet

February 18, 2010

Jirair Ratevosian: “Changing Policy, Opening Hearts” - from Uganda to Armenia

In Uganda, if a mother suspects her child of being gay or lesbian and does not inform authorities, she could be jailed. This is one of many unconscionable repercussions if a proposed bill becomes law in Uganda. Not only does the bill deny the very basic rights that so many of us take for granted, the sentiments it fuels in Uganda and around the world poison the character of our humanity.

Armenia, which decriminalized gay sex in 2003, is one of 67 signatories on an important UN declaration condemning harassment and prejudice based on sexual orientation.

Despite these laudable policy changes, there is not enough attention paid to the development of greater tolerance in Armenian society. Prevailing discrimination and harassment dehumanizes LGBT members of our community, and puts gay men and other men who have sex with men at higher risk of HIV infection than the general population.

HIV transmission among men who have sex with men is rising, accounting for nearly two percent of HIV infections, according to the National Centre for AIDS Prevention in Armenia. However, health experts and activists believe the official figures hugely underestimate the numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS and newly acquiring HIV infection in the region. Homophobia and discrimination—which invade the healthcare setting—are in large part to blame for driving gay men and other men who have sex with men underground and away from lifesaving HIV services and official statistics.

While there are many challenges to understanding and responding to these “hidden epidemics,” the time has come for all of us to be part of the solution. National governments, the private sector, churches, non-governmental organizations, and the media each have a role to play in strengthening capacity and willingness for a broader and more effective response to HIV/AIDS. For each of us, this means displaying greater acceptance and willingness to discuss these issues openly and free from judgment and hatred.

Injustice in our community taints the moral character of our resilient people, who in history have been targets of hatred and brutality, simply for existing.

While time opens hearts and brings greater tolerance, each of us must be a force for unity in our common desire to live a free and dignified life. Our history would expect no less.

Jirair Ratevosian, based in Washington D.C., is the deputy director of policy at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.

source: The Armenian Weekly
thanks to Unzipped: Gay Armenia