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The North Macedonian Parliament adopted a law on March 14, 2019, that makes dignified, women-focused abortion care a reality. The new law puts women’s needs at the heart of the system, dismantling many of the obstacles that until now undermined their reproductive autonomy and made it difficult to access basic health care.
Just off a highway in downtown Skopje, a middle-aged man stamps his feet before a door. He is here to pick up clean needles from a drop-in centre run by HOPS, an NGO that provides drug users and sex workers with clean needles, contraception, information and advice.
Back in 2004, Zoran Jordanov decided that someone needed to take action to support Macedonia’s LGBTI community and open up access to sexual health services. He began to look into issues of HIV prevalence and the importance of prevention.
When Mihaela (not her real name) was six years old, her father sent her onto the streets to scavenge for food for the family and beg for money to fund his alcoholism treatment. “We were very poor,” she says. “I ...
Whether marginalised because of sexuality, gender identity, occupation or ethnicity, many vulnerable people in Macedonia turn to NGOs for sexual health services, as well as legal advice and support, education, employment guidance, food and clothes.
Young people in Macedonia are some of the worst affected by HIV. Around 0.1 per cent of people aged 15-24 are HIV positive, 14 times more than the general population. A lack of sexuality education, media silence around HIV, taboos about sex and sexuality, staunchly conservative social norms, and discrimination towards LGBTI people play a role in disrupting access to knowledge and services.
Two years ago, when he was just 21 years old, Bojan’s life changed forever. His long-term partner revealed that he had been diagnosed with HIV.
Tucked away behind a line of trees in the grounds of Skopje’s University Hospital, lies a modest concrete building. This is the Clinic for Infectious Diseases, where people newly diagnosed with HIV come to access treatment and support.
“I remember when I was little, there was one very stigmatising ad on Macedonian TV about how to protect yourself from HIV,” recalls philosophy student Bojan. “It was really scary."
Being young and gay in Macedonia is to live in fear of your safety. Like many Balkan countries, Macedonia is notoriously patriarchal and conservative, and homophobia is systemic.