Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Celebrating New Year at home, with family, then friends, and yes, TV programmes, special New Year films, special New Year food… it’s a package deal :)
Btw, if you want to visit London, do not do it for Christmas and New Year holiday. It’s the most boring time (ever!) in London. It may be hard to believe, but trust me (as someone who knows how to party and have fun London style), it’s very true. Any other time, this is one of the most exciting cities you could ever find.
Past year was very turbulent for me. To be honest, I do not miss it at all and look forward to its formal farewell. But, hey, I started my blogs this past year; in fact, only several months ago (in April/May); it seems like years though... In 2007, my life was full with unfinished matters, some of which from previous years. It was very stressful at times, frustrating and disheartening… But I made it - THE closure. It feels so good now. It feels liberating. I wish you all effective closure and very happy and exciting New Year ahead!
I will resume my blogging most probably at some point during the week of 7th January. But you never know, depending on circumstances, may well continue blogging. Otherwise, will certainly reflect my Yerevan experiences in upcoming posts in New Year.
Many thanks for reading my blogs, many thanks for your comments and messages. Keep in touch!
Friday, 14 December 2007
Below is a formal announcement by organisers.
Pink - (Public Information and Need of Knowledge)
"Our main mission is STIs prevention (special attention to HIV) among LGBT community. Recently, the amount of HIV infected people has risen and it is uprising every year among general population and LGBT people, to promote respect for LGBT rights in Armenian society and even in LGBT community in Armenia, because it is fact that lots of LGBT individuals in Armenia don't know their rights. A lot of people think themselves to be sick; it means they still think homosexuality to be illness, disease. We want to give information about what the situation is, help to understand and solve many questions they haven't found answers for yet.
The mission of the organisation.
o Raising awareness in society about facts and background of sexuality, STIs, HIV/AIDS, LGBT.
o Searching for role models, create an info centre, self help groups and build a ground for advocating gay rights.
o Developing projects and undertaking studies or research in various fields that are of particular concern to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people
We have agreements with several organizations in different regions of Armenia to work together and create a "Pink corner" in their offices, which will be a part of our organization.
I would like to mention about so called "straight" LGBT individuals. The term "straight" needs definition. The present reality makes a lot of people to cover themselves as straights. It is widely spread in Armenia. To reach these kinds of people is very difficult because they are afraid to be uncovered. We want people to visit our organization, so they will feel very comfortable and secure realizing that we don't want to discover who they are, but to give information about sexual health, hygiene, sexuality even he is not LGBT individual, for that purpose we need to take into consideration the way LGBT "straight" individuals are thinking, because our main purpose is to reach to the wide LGBT community which members are mostly covered under "straight" term. There is an organization for LGBT community in Armenia, but so called "straight" LGBT individuals will never attend that kind of organization realizing that it is openly organization for LGBT and even they will do a harm for that kind of organization.
On the other hand we want to promote universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the elimination of all kinds of discrimination. If there is a LGBT organization in Armenia so it doesn't do its job properly to our mind, because nobody is talking about the real situation of LGBT in Armenia in any kind of forms. There are facts about LGBT individuals who have been tortured by their own parents, there is nothing about what the situation is in army (it is fact lots of guys have sex in army using no condoms and how they behave towards gay men in army who are being raped and even they can be killed and nobody will know about it). Nobody talks about LGBT people who are famous all over the world.
Main present and past activities, programs and successes.
o Have been providing World AIDS Day events at gay friendly club since 2004
o Cooperating with local NGOs
o Leaflets and booklets on HIV/AIDS, STIs, are donated by MSF Greece to have them available for distribution.
o Trainings in 2007 in Gyumri (Shirak region), Dilijan (Tavush region), Vanadzor (Lori region) and Yerevan
For the conclusion I would like to add that all what was presented above is just a drop in ocean. A lot of problems should be spoken about.
And even if we are able to give right information about STIs, LGBT community, sexual health, hygiene to a very few people, it will mean that we have achieved and done something for our society. We realize that we can not manage to do a lot, but to our mind the first step of doing something is to speak about it and do something towards it, because as Albert Einstein said:" The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing". We don't want to be participants of evil.
For all these we highly aspect your assistance and support.
Visit our non-official web page
M.H. and G.T."
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
Ask Armenian Ombudsman about discrimination of LGBT people in Armenia, homophobia, inequality, other human rights violations
Thanks to A1+ blog, we have an opportunity to ask direct questions to the Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) of Armenia Armen Harutyunyan.
Deadline to submit your questions - Friday 14 December (inclusive).
To send your question, leave it in a comment section of A1+ blog here:
I think it’s a good opportunity to ask (perhaps for the first time) Armenian official who is responsible for the human rights protection in our country about the state with LGBT people in Armenia, gay rights, homophobia, inequality, discrimination, lack of legal protection. You may wish to ask also specific, more personal questions, if appropriate, which involve human rights violations and discrimination.
Go to the A1+ blog site here:
and leave your question to Armen Harutyunyan. A1+ blog promises his replies to the questions over next week.
Make your voice heard!
Monday, 10 December 2007
Survey was conducted among women 15-49 yrs old.
*via Radio Liberty
Sadly, not a shocking news...
ILGA-Europe recognises the significant development that the signing of the Reform Treaty shall bring with it in EU law, and the implications that it may have for the advancement of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people within Europe. The Charter is the first EU document that brings together the whole range of civil, political, economic and social rights provided in a number of international conventions. Undoubtedly the Charter, which will come into force 2009 after all EU member states ratify it, will provide a new opportunity for LGBT people to address and challenge discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and we look forward to seeing how the European Court of Justice is going to interpret the Charter."
Well, except for the UK and Poland, which opted out from the Treaty. I would not worry much about the UK with its pretty comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, but Poland...
I wish similar to this Rights Chapter treaty covers also the Council of Europe countries (all three South Caucasus countries are members of the Council of Europe). Still, this is great news and it would hopefully have influence on and send message to other countries which seek prospect of membership or closer ties with the EU, including Armenia.
Sunday, 9 December 2007
By Gabriele Zamparini
"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country." – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [see also here - Unzipped: Gay Armenia]
Iran did it again. Makvan Mouloodzadeh, 21 years old, was executed because homosexual. The Iran Lobby, so powerful within some quarters of the Western “Left” and the so-called “anti-war movement”, will once again try to justify this barbaric murder and repeat the lies of the Iranian theocracy: he was killed not because homosexual but because he was accused of rape. This time however the homophobic apologists on the “Left” will need to find a better excuse; Makvan “was accused of committing anal rape (ighab) with other young boys when he was 13 years old. However, at Mr. Mouloodzadeh's trial, all the witnesses retracted their pre-trial testimonies, claiming to have lied to the authorities under duress. Makvan also told the court that his confession was made under coercion and pleaded not guilty.”
Like canaries in a coal mine, homosexuals have always been the minority whose treatment in a society would detect the grade of freedom and tolerance within that society or the lack of them. Probably the most persecuted minority in most of the times, cultures and places [but ‘most’ doesn’t mean ‘all’], the attitude toward homosexuals is indicative of the state of that society in its whole. More...
*This report by The Cat's Dream cited also my post Gay death in Iraq: a desperate call for help
Saturday, 8 December 2007
...or shall I say body-to-body? Imagine, you do not know the context of it. I can't stop being amazed how much homoeroticism is involved in all this tough guy sports - boxing, rugby... They sure would deny it ;)
Monday, 3 December 2007
via Petrelis Files, I found this link to Swiss national AIDS prevention campaign slogan. It is aimed to target everyone, straight and gay. LOVE LIFE STOP AIDS… So simple and so powerful! One of the most life affirming and positive, without usual horror elements, anti-AIDS message I heard in years.
Here is just one (gay related) photo to accompany this message:
Sunday, 2 December 2007
*Nikolai Alexeyev, gay rights activist and Moscow Gay Pride organiser, shows his spoiled voting paper minutes before being arrested. It reads: "No to homophobes. No to Luzhkov." Photo via GayRussia.ru
Nikolai Alekseyev and 12 fellow gay rights activists have been arrested this morning at 10am in Moscow while they attempted to vote at the "District Electoral Commission N° 165". They came to the place at 9.30 am. Yuri Luzhkov, mayor of Moscow who banned the last two Gay Prides (calling them "Satanic"), was planning to vote in the same place later in the day. Representatives of Gayrussia.ru reported that the police ‘suddenly broke into the place and took all the activists who were quietly voting.’ Reportedly, some 5 police busses could be seen around the voting place which usually serves as a school. However, Lenta.ru reported that Nikolai Alekseyev was arrested when he wrote ‘No to homophobes. No to Luzhkov’ on his ballot paper and started to demonstrate the bulletin to journalists (see photo above). In Putin’s ‘guided democracy,’ spoiling the ballot papers is a silent form of protest by many: opposition leader Garry Kasparov has been reported writing ‘Another Russia’ over his ballot paper.
The activists were detained at the Tverskoy police station. They were charged for attempting to conduct an "illegal gathering". Those charged for taking part in an "illegal gathering" are due to appear in court on Monday at 10am (Moscow time).
Two weeks ago, a group of Russian gays and lesbians called for the LGBT community to vote in the election and to write on the ballot paper “No to homophobes” as a protest to the lack of human rights in the country for their community. They claimed that no political party took the LGBT issues into consideration and therefore they did not want to support anyone.
“We were trying to vote,” said Moscow Gay Pride organiser Nikolai Alexeyev, speaking from the police station where he was detained. “Men from the special services pushed us outside the polling station, put us in a bus and drove us to a police station.” There was no direct protest, Alexeyev said. It was simply a matter of “spoiling” their ballot papers by writing “No to Homophobes” across the paper.
Those arrested were detained for more than three hours at the Tverskoy police station in central Moscow, about 100 metres from City Hall and less the five minutes walk from Red Square. For hours, they were not given a reason for their detention.
An official from the Prosecution Department visited the Tverskoy police station in the afternoon. He immediately ordered that those still detained to be released, indicating the maximum time permitted for detention in such cases was three hours, Alexeyev said by telephone. He called intervention from the Prosecution Department against police actions "sensational".
Nikolai Alexeyev expressed hope that the journalists in the polling station where activists were arrested can testify that they did not conduct any demonstration, but simply "about 20 of them voted at the same time." A number of media representatives were at that pollig station waiting for the Mayor of Luzhkov who was due to vote shortly after the LGBT activists.
(based on Gay Republic Daily, GayRussia.ru and UKGayNews)
Saturday, 1 December 2007
Statistics and commentary
Unless otherwise stated (or provided with the specific link), most HIV/AIDS statistics in this post are via National Centre for AIDS Prevention in Armenia
Incidence and prevalence
From 1988 to 1 December 2007, 528 HIV cases had been registered in the Republic of Armenia among its citizens. 66 new cases of HIV infection were registered in 2006; and 99 - in 2007. Males constitute a majority in the total number of HIV cases - 396 cases (75.0%), females make up 132 cases (25.0%). 528 reported cases include 11 cases of HIV infection among children (2.1%).
AIDS diagnosis was made to 206 patients with HIV, of whom 40 are women and 6 are children. From the beginning of the epidemic, 119 death cases have been registered among HIV/AIDS patients (the cases include 19 women and 3 children).
The overwhelming majority of the HIV-positive individuals (72.3%) belong to the age group of 20-39.
Modes of transmission
The main modes of HIV transmission are through injecting drug use (47.9%) and heterosexual practices (45.1%). Besides, there are also registered cases of mother-to-child HIV transmission as well as through blood transfusions and homosexual practices
|Transmission through injecting drug usage||47.9 %|
|Transmission through heterosexual practices||45.1 %|
|Mother-to-child transmission||1.9 %|
Transmission through blood
|Transmission through homosexual practices||0.4 %|
All the individuals infected via injecting drug use were men. Some of them temporarily inhabited in Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Irkoutsk, Rostov, Surgut etc.) and Ukraine (Odessa, Kiev, Mareupol etc.) and were most likely infected there, where HIV prevalence is much higher. In addition, the majority of all the HIV-infected males (64.7%) are individuals who practice injecting drug usage, whereas the majority of women were infected through sexual contacts (98.4%).
The maximum number of HIV cases was reported in Yerevan, the capital: 254 cases, which constitute 48.1% of all the registered cases. Shirak Marz follows next - 52 cases, which constitute 9.8% of all the registered cases.
However, while interpreting these statistics, one must bare in mind under-registration of cases. As WHO advises, whereas the above figures represent reported cases, it is estimated that the actual number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Armenia is about 2800-3000.
As to the HIV transmission "via homosexual practices", on one hand, it seems to be not high. On the other hand, under-reporting/under-registration, which is true for both straight and gay people, would be certainly higher for gays - in case of gay people there is not only stigma associated with HIV/AIDS but also fear of disclosure of their sexual orientation.
High proportion of HIV among straight people is not surprising due to lack of proper sexual education and still prevalent attitude of being engaged in unprotected sex. Also, according to second-generation HIV surveillance data collected in 2002, HIV prevalence among injecting drug users is about 15% and less than 3% among female sex workers. In 2006 there was no registered opioid substitution programme for injecting drug users in Armenia.
That's not to say that the situation in relation to sexual education is rosy among gay Armenians. Sure, they may be more aware of risks as compared to general population. However, one relatively recent survey among MSM (men having sex with men) revealed disturbing lack of knowledge especially among younger groups which constituted 56% of surveyed 70 MSM. Only around half of the youngest group of participants (18-30 yrs old) mentioned "unprotected sexual intercourse" as a mode of HIV transmission, while almost all of the older age groups indicated it. And slightly lower proportion of the youngest age group (51%) still believed that one may get HIV through "shaking hands."
Below are the distribution of answers concerning HIV transmission:
- By unprotected sexual intercourse: I group (18-30 yrs old) – 56%, II group (30-45 yrs old) – 92% and III group (45-62 yrs old) – 100%
- By drug injection: I group – 82%, II group – 83% and III group – 85%
- By blood transfusion - I group – 44%, II group –75% and III group – 100%
- From pregnant mother to a child: I group – 33%, II group –67% and III group – 85%
- By relating with HIV infected people, for example, shaking hands while greeting: I group – 51%, II group –33% and III group – 14%
Another anonymous survey among LGBT Armenians conducted by gay rights group WFCE confirmed lack of proper knowledge on HIV/AIDS. While most of them indicated that HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sex, majority (67%) did not use condom when they last had anal sex. The most frequent reasons cited for not using condoms were "no condom" (31%), "partner was against" (18%), "reduces pleasure" (15%), and "feel embarrassed to buy/purchase" (11%).
On the other hand, back to the previous survey, the prejudice towards HIV-positive people was prevalent in all age groups, being higher (again!) among the youngest:
26% from I group (18-30 yrs old), 33% from II group (30-45 yrs old) and 57% from III group (45-62 yrs old) have mentioned that they would limit their mutual relations with HIV infected person (it is not clear whether the question referred to sexual or general contacts). Respectively, 51%, 29% and 14% have mentioned that they would completely cut their mutual relations with HIV infected person, and 21%, 25% and 0% have mentioned that they would not only completely cut their mutual relations with HIV infected, but also actively prevent their relatives and friends from any relation with HIV infected person. And respectively only 3%, 13% and 29% of the survey participants have mentioned that they would continue their relations with HIV infected people.
I am not aware of the exact methodology of these surveys to judge more properly their reliability, however, my guess is that the convenient sampling was used which is a common practice to recruit participants for surveys dealing with sensitive matters. It means that it was not a random and thus more representative sample but possibly conducted by recruiting survey participants, say, through friends, or with the help of a particular social group etc. However, this is the best available evidence we have to get an indication of the state of knowledge and behaviour in this case among MSM or LGBT people in Armenia.
These surveys and HIV/AIDS statistics highlight the urgent need for proper sexual education among our population (younger generation is of particular concern!), which is as relevant for straight majority, as for gays. Relatively low rates of HIV in Armenia doesn't mean anyone could relax. Moreover, it should be a basis for more active actions to prevent its spread.
HIV testing is free of charge in Armenia and 29 facilities across the country provide testing. Systematic tests are performed in connection with pregnancy, in IDUs, in nationals returning home from long-term residency abroad and in blood donors. Nearly 50 000 people were tested for HIV in Armenia during 2006; 66 were found to be positive.
Armenia has one treatment facility providing medical care to people living with HIV. 170 people received medical care for their condition in 2006. By April 2007, 52 were receiving HAART [Combination of several (typically three or four) antiretroviral drugs is known as Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART).] of which 61% are current or former injecting drug users. About 2/3 of the people living with HIV and who attended care were tested for coinfections and TB and hepatitis C were diagnosed in half of these cases.
1988 - registration of the first HIV case; the transmission mode is heterosexual intercourse;
1988 - registration of the first AIDS case;
1989 - registration of the first death from AIDS;
1990 - registration of the first case of HIV infection through injecting drug use;
1996 - registration of the first HIV case among women;
2000 - registration of the first case of HIV transmission through homosexual practice;
2001 - registration of the first cases of HIV infection and AIDS among children.