Craig was a friend of ours. At least we liked to think so. He was an Englishman who had come to Bulgaria to find a better life. And he did. He lived in a village with his partner, he worked online, tended his gardens and had many friends. Until a few months ago when hell began…

On March 20, Craig’s partner Martin visited the Legal Support Programme run by Youth LGBT organization Deystvie. He told us his biggest nightmare – watching his partner slowly dying in his arms. After undergoing tests, Craig was admitted at the “Dr.Stefan Cherkezov” municipal hospital in the town of Veliko Turnovo. However there is no issued record of his treatment there. As Martin said, “They simply kicked us out”. (Subsequently, it turned out that the doctors in the hospital made quick HIV test to Craig without his prior knowledge or consent). Martin then took Craig to another hospital in the town of Pleven where admission was again refused.

He describes sitting in the middle of the town and watching his partner slowly slip away in the back seat of his car.

They set off to the Pirogov Emergency Center in Sofia, where Craig was admitted, cared for and his condition stabilised. After being discharged, Craig was admitted in the “Prof. Ivan Kirov” Hospital, specialising in the treatment of infectious diseases, where he was supposed to begin ART. In the meantime however his condition abruptly began to deteriorate again. ART could not be administered before his health was stabilised. Craig began receiving blood and protein transfusions as part of his life-support therapy. While all of this was happening, the sexual health specialists from CheckPoint Sofia turned to 3 different hospitals, trying to persuade staff to run tests for Craig’s condition. One of the hospitals admitted him and discharged him shortly afterwards, and the test results were delayed by almost a month. They were supposed to come out on Tuesday, May 7, a Tuesday which Craig didn’t live to see.

Craig did not die from HIV or AIDS. Craig died from the stigma regarding HIV. It is the stigma deeply embedded in our society. A widespread stigma even among medical staff and medical professionals in Bulgaria, the ones who over a period of two months neglected their professional duties and forgot about their Hippocratic Oath. Discrimination against LGBTI people in Bulgaria not only exists, but it is institutionalised. Today one of us is gone because he was gay and because he had HIV.

We at LGBT Deystvie extend our heartfelt condolences to Craig’s partner, Martin, and their entire family.

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