“Protection through Mobility: An Emergency Response to Hostility”

From July 2020 the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV (EHPV) is implementing their first Eastern Europe and Central Asia region project- “Protection through Mobility: An Emergency Response to Hostility”. The project goal is to create protection mechanisms and ensure access to healthcare services according to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health for MSM and trans people, including those HIV+, who experienced SOGI-based state-sponsored prosecutions in the Caucasus region of Russia, as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Erika! You are the great mind behind the project. Please, tell us how the project idea emerged and why it is important for you?

Back in early 2019, during the second wave of prosecutions of gay man in Chechnya, my colleagues and I started brainstorming on what could we do on this matter, how can we be helpful. Unfortunately, it turned out that planned development programmes aiming to improve the well-being of LGBTQ communities in the EECA region could not fit in rather costly unplanned activities to provide sufficient support to those in need of emergency assistance in potentially life-threatening environments. This put me think that an emergency-oriented project is needed, in order to be able to contribute to the safety and security of LBGTQ people in the region in a meaningful and timely manner.

Having worked in/with all Central Asian countries on different social matters, including LGBTQ-specific issues, I was aware that despite rather unfavourable legal and social environments for the communities in most of the Republics, like exposure to stigma and state-sponsored discrimination, as well as a lack of legal protection mechanisms, the two countries with the most difficult situation are Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The criteria is simple: Turkmen and Uzbek governments and legal systems still consider homosexuality to be a crime leading to imprisonment as a punishment.

Therefore, with help of my colleagues, I decided to create a project that would enable the project team to provide an emergency response to hostility for those LGBTQ people residing in particularly high-risk environments. In order to make this concept more nuanced and work not only towards the safety of individuals experiencing hostility already, but also to contribute to improvements of the environments in focus, an advocacy part was introduced. By carries out the planned advocacy activities, we, the project team, plan to move forward with decriminalising homosexuality in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well us to showcase the situation in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and in particular in Chechnya, to the international community which can later pressure respective governments to create more inclusive legislations.

Karolin, you are the project coordinator. Please, tell us how the project goals will be achieved and why you are part of this project team?

The project goal will be achieved by unveiling and spreading information on lawful migration channels from a beneficiary’s country of residence (Russia, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan) to Estonia by advocating for granting entry visas to Estonia on humanitarian grounds. Respective cases of human rights violations would be documented upon arrival and applied in advocacy for improving legal and factual environments in respective countries by submitting alternative reports to UN treaty bodies. Access to HIV and other healthcare services for displaced MSM and trans people would be improved by creating a clear and state-approved procedure for gaining access to antiretroviral therapy in Estonia for newly arrived MSM and trans people.

The question: “Why am I part of the project team?” has quite a simple answer. Because I want to work with a topic close to my heart. My professional interest is primarily the topic of refugees. In the summer of 2019, I graduated Tal Tech master’s degree in International Relations and European-Asian Studies Cum Laude, where my master’s thesis studied the possibility of granting legal refugee status to persons forcibly displaced by climate change under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. I have worked with immigrants and refugees in Estonia at the Harku Detention Center as a recreation specialist, in the media team at the Yaffa cultural centre in Balata Refugee Camp in Palestine, as a training coordinator at the NGO Johannes Mihkelson Center in the project „Meie Eesti: inimesed, kohad, helid, maitsed“ and at the moment I work as a project coordinator in NGO Tartu International House project „Uued lapsed koolis: uussisserändajatega seotud väljakutsed Eesti koolides ja kohanemise toetamine“. I have been supporting the integration process of immigrants in Estonia for several years. However, I am interested not only on supporting the integration process of immigrants in Estonia but to focus on the legal bases and procedures for granting refugee status in Estonia and to stand up for equal rights and fair treatment for everyone. This project allows me to do just that.

Yuri, you are working in this project as an advocacy advisor in the human rights field. Please, tell us why this project is important and why you decided to support it with your expertise?

For over three years I have been working at ECOM – Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity as Human Rights and Legal Issues Coordinator. Together with the team I work every day to create enabling legal and social environment conducive of the right to health in EECA, where every and each gay men or trans* persons can fully enjoy their rights and freedoms. Unfortunately, countries like Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Russian Federation are the toughest to work with, and we need to put double- or even triple efforts compared to other countries, if we want to achieve some feasible results related to positive legislative changes there.
My experience shows that international advocacy remains one of the most powerful source of those changes in project countries, therefore, I’ve decided to join the team and advice on how to use such instruments as UPR (Universal Periodic Review) and UN Treaty Bodies to strengthen the already powerful interventions of “Protection through Mobility” project team. At the end of the day, we are all working to achieve the same goal – to make this world a better place to those who identify as LGBTQI. Therefore, I am in.

The first HIV case in Estonia was diagnosed in 1988, and by December 31st, 2019 a total of 10,079 HIV cases have been reported1. Men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people have been identified as the groups most at risk of HIV infection by the WHO2. 2018 HIV surveillance data from EU/EEA countries indicates that sex between men accounted for the largest proportion of all new HIV diagnoses in 2018 – 40%3. It is estimated that there are up to 9,000 homo- and bisexual men in Estonia4. Sexual risk behaviors are common, for example half of the MSM do not use condoms consistently in casual relationships, and this has not changed in 7 the last 10 years5. HIV prevalence among MSM is estimated to be 2–4% and it has been stable in the last years6.

EHPV is an organization promoting communities living with HIV. Their goal is to increase via effective partnership and active advocacy efforts the influence of the PLHIV community on improving access to timely, comprehensive and quality treatment, care and support for adults and children living with HIV in EECA countries.

Welcome!

From July 2020 Karolin Kruuse (Project Coordinator), Erika Tšerkašina (Advocacy Coordinator) and Yuri Yoursky (Advocacy Advisor) joined EHPV to implement the project “Protection through Mobility: An Emergency Response to Hostility”. The project aims to create protection mechanisms and ensure access to healthcare services according to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health for MSM and trans people, including those HIV+, who experienced SOGI-based state-sponsored prosecutions in the Caucasus region of Russia, as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The aim is to be achieved by unveiling and spreading information on lawful migration channels from a beneficiary’s country of residence (Russia, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan) to Estonia by advocating for granting entry visas to Estonia on humanitarian grounds. Respective cases of human rights violations would be documented upon arrival and applied in advocacy for improving legal and factual environments in respective countries by submitting alternative reports to UN treaty bodies. Access to HIV and other healthcare services for displaced MSM and trans people would be improved by creating a clear and state-approved procedure for gaining access to antiretroviral therapy in Estonia for newly arrived MSM and trans people.

Karolin’s professional interest is primarily the topic of refugees. In the summer of 2019, she graduated Tal Tech master’s degree in International Relations and European-Asian Studies Cum Laude, where her master’s thesis studied the possibility of granting legal refugee status to persons forcibly displaced by climate change under the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. She has worked with immigrants and refugees in Estonia at the Harku Detention Center as a recreation specialist, in the media team at the Yaffa cultural centre in Balata Refugee Camp in Palestine, as a training coordinator at the NGO Johannes Mihkelson Center in the project „Meie Eesti: inimesed, kohad, helid, maitsed“ and at the moment she works as a project coordinator in NGO Tartu International House project „Uued lapsed koolis: uussisserändajatega seotud väljakutsed Eesti koolides ja kohanemise toetamine“. In the framework of the “Protection through Mobility” project, Karolin aims to focus not only on supporting the integration process of immigrants in Estonia but to focus on the legal bases and procedures for granting refugee status in Estonia and to stand up for the equal rights and fair treatment for everyone.

Erika is an experienced human rights professional currently engaged in human rights monitoring and analysis in diverse environments; from conflict-affected zones to countries lacking an anti-discrimination legislation, focusing on gender- and SOGI-based discrimination. She has worked with LGBTQ community mobilisation and contributed to local and international advocacy over the course of over 3 years. Erika holds an MSc degree In Global Development from the University of Copenhagen and regularly engages in research of migration and gender issues in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

 

 

As advocacy advisor in human rights field with a considerable background both in academics and in the field. Yuri is an expert on meaningful engagement with UN Human Rights Bodies, certified trainer on combatting SOGI-based stigma and discrimination. He holds Master’s in International Relations and European Asian Studies. Since 2017 occupies the position of Human Rights and Legal Issues Coordinator at ECOM – Eurasian Coalition on Heath, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity, where he closely works with communities of gay men in Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.1

 

 

 

Club69

Find The Missing Millions

Ülemaailmne hepatiidipäev – Всемирный день борьбы с гепатитом – World hepatitis day

Kogu maailmas on 290 miljonit inimest enda teadmata nakatunud viirushepatiiti. Kuni diagnoosimata inimesi ei leita ja neid raviteenustele ei suunata, jätkuvad miljonite inimeste kannatused ja kaotsi lähevad miljonid elud. 28. juulil, ülemaailmsel hepatiidipäeval kutsume inimesi kogu maailmas üles astuma samme ja tõstma teadlikkust selle nimel, et leida üles nood “kadumaläinud miljonid”.

Worldwide, 290 million people are living with viral hepatitis unaware. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost. On World Hepatitis Day, 28 July, we call on people from across the world to take action and raise awareness to find the “missing millions”.

New project – “Protection through Mobility: An Emergency Response to Hostility”

From July 2020 EHPV starting to implement the project “Protection through Mobility: An Emergency Response to Hostility”. The project aims to create protection mechanisms and ensure access to healthcare services according to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health for MSM and trans people, including those HIV+, who experienced SOGI-based state-sponsored prosecutions in the Caucasus region of Russia, as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The aim is to be achieved by unveiling and spreading information on lawful migration channels from a beneficiary’s country of residence (Russia, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan) to Estonia by advocating for granting entry visas to Estonia on humanitarian grounds. Respective cases of human rights violations would be documented upon arrival and applied in advocacy for improving legal and factual environments in respective countries by submitting alternative reports to UN treaty bodies. Access to HIV and other healthcare services for displaced MSM and trans people would be improved by creating a clear and state-approved procedure for gaining access to antiretroviral therapy in Estonia for newly arrived MSM and trans people.

EHPV joined the regional AIDS Action Europe network

Last week, the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV (EHPV) joined the regional AIDS Action Europe network, becoming one of the 61 participating countries. AIDS Action Europe’s top priorities are strengthening civil society to tackle the HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis and viral hepatitis epidemics in Europe and Central Asia.


Membership of the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV will represent the interests of the Estonian PLHIV community at the European level. We can also count on the support of the European community in the processes that are taking place in our country.

Kulbaev Sagib will represent EHPV at AIDS Action Europe. Cooperation is designed for the next three years with the possibility of extension.

Additional information on www.aidsactioneurope.org

“Nothing for us without us” – the year has passed for the Center of Estonian North-East Communities.

“Nothing for us without us” – the New Community Center in North-East Estonia celebrates first year of its activities.

On May 24, 2019, the Community Center, established by the NGO “Estonian Network of PLHIV” NGOs (www.ehpv.ee) and the NGO LUNEST (www.lunest.ee at Jõhvi, Rakvere 5a) opened its doors. For the first time in Estonia, a unique center has been created in which services are provided to several key groups and managed by community representatives. Various projects with the support of the National Institute for Health Development (TAI) made it possible the creation of the center. Undoubtedly, the emergence of the center helped to get closer to the real changes, first of all, with regard to the life of people at risk.

According to the organizers of the center:

“Nowadays there are so many challenges – the lack of stable funding, attacks on communities, there is an atmosphere of prejudice and tension in society towards HIV-positive people and people who use drugs and psychoactive substances, representatives of LGBT people. The fundamental principles for our solidarity are equality and freedom.

We can change the world for the better in solidarity, not in confrontation.”

As part of the communities development, emphasis has been placed on health and socially significant diseases, the rights to prevention, treatment and support. The Estonian network of PLHIV and LUNEST continue to hope for the state support, because all mentioned activities are the bases principles of the new Estonian HIV strategic plan. Protection of rights should be the strategical goal for the nearest future, advocacy of the people’s interests, services development by communities and for communities.

Despite of difficult situation in Estonia and in other parts of the world, we should respect equality, it is necessary to oppose any discrimination! Estonian society should be equal for everyone.

Equality should be based on universal values, humanism and law principles.

Nowadays, there are so many situation that distancing people, there is an attack on solidarity. But only basing on the united community power we can achieve  real changes!

Checkpoint MSM

The new order of COVID-19 pandemic is demanding more HIV-related service among the risk groups. In this regards, the Estonian Network of People Living with HIV (EHPV) is arranging a new initiative “Checkpoint MSM EHPV”, which will provide services to men who have sex with men(MSM).

The main goals of Checkpoint MSM EHPV are:

1. Increase MSM access to counseling, testing, and treatment as well as mental and social assistance.

2. Increase MSM awareness of HIV, its treatment and other sexually transmitted diseases.

3. Contribute to preventing new HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among MSM in Estonia.

4. Increase MSM awareness about PrEP and PEP.

5. Develop cooperation between state and local government, non-governmental organizations to fight stigma and discrimination towards MSM and PLHIV and reduce the consequences of HIV and other STIs.

In Checkpoint MSM EHPV there is access for free condoms, lubricants, HIV self-test kits, as well as information about any topic related to men’s health. Also, our experts will help you to find answers to your questions at our thematic meetings.

Checkpoint MSM EHPV is a volunteer initiative where everyone can share their experiences in safe and friendly atmosphere. In our center, everyone could find help – anonymously and free of charge from Monday to Saturday. The center will open its doors on May 18, immediately after the removal of quarantine.

For additional information contact:

+372 5870 6070 (Latsin), +372 5918 4194 (Deniss), +372 5781 6023 (Sagib)

Tallinn, Rävala pst. 8-1014

e-mail: checkpoint@ehpv.ee