LGBTI people in the Eastern European country of Albania will soon access support via a dedicated phone helpline.
Same-sex sexual activity is legal in the country and the government adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law in 2010. However, same-sex marriage or civil unions are not legally recognized. Homophobic and transphobic attitudes persist.
LGBT activists say it is not uncommon for doctors and civil servants to refuse to provide services to gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
The free helpline, which they hope will be operational before the end of 2017, is the result of a Kickstarter campaign. It drew donations from more than a 1,000 people around the world.
The campaign was spearheaded by local Albanian group United for LGBT Cause in Albania (Pro LGBT) and international LGBT rights group All Out.
Marinela Gremi, Executive Director of Pro LGBT, said in a statement, ‘This will dramatically impact the lives of LGBT people here in Albania. Many are too afraid to go to the doctors to seek medical help, especially when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
‘This helpline is going to break so many barriers and allow LGBT people to get crucial help they might not ever get.’
‘Fear, insecurity and mistrust’
Expanding further to GSN, Gremi said
‘There are many cases during the last years when LGBT persons have been denied medical care.
‘In my opinion, the worst part isn’t the number of those who have been denied but the spread of fear, insecurity and mistrust of the community in general towards doctors based on those cases.’
She said that doctors could not legally turn away LGBT patients, but the reality was very different. It was worse for patients who were more easily identified as LGBT – particularly trans people and gay men with HIV.
Following the setting up of the helpline, Gremi says local activists still have much work to do in changing legislation.
‘There is still no regulation for the same sex partnerships or same sex marriages. The same situation remains to the gender recognition law. Even though a very good law for gender recognition has been drafted with the support of Council of Europe since 2013, it is not yet approved by Albanian politicians.’