Hungary celebrates World AIDS Day despite government’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric
World AIDS Day on 1 December saw a huge range of events marking this important touch-point for the global queer community. There’s no limitation on how World AIDS Day is observed – anything from the small and intimate, to the big and bold makes a statement, helps us to remember the past and look to the future.
One of our favourite moments of this year’s events come from Hungary. In Budapest, the local LGBTQ community organised for the city’s iconic Chain Bridge to turn red in honour of World AIDS Day.
As a key symbol of the city, it’s a long-standing tradition to illuminate the bridge to mark special occasions, however this year was the first time that the bridge has been illuminated for World AIDS Day.
Leading the push for the Chain Bridge to be lit with colour of the Red Ribbon were local organisations HIVszures.hu and Humen Media. The objective was to raise awareness of the importance of regular HIV testing as well tackling the stigma faced by people living with HIV.
As well illuminating the bridge, the community also organised a vigil walk – gathering on Clark Ádám Square on the Buda side and then walking across the bridge.
According to data available since 1985, a total of 1,040 people in Hungary have been diagnosed with AIDS. In 2018, 222 people acquired HIV. What’s alarming is that of these 222 new infections, 57 people had already developed AIDS – highlighting issues and barriers with testing and early access to treatment.
Is Hungary queer-friendly?
Hungary is a country where attitudes to LGBTQ people have been steadily evolving over time.
As things currently stand, homosexuality is not prohibited, anti-discrimination protections are in place, and there is legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
The history of LGBTQ equality in Hungary
As modern-day Hungary emerged in the aftermath of World War I, the country’s penal code listed sex between men as a criminal offence. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1961.
Marriage equality in Hungary
Legal recognition of same-sex relationships became possible in 1996 when Hungary adopted the concept of Unregistered Cohabitation. This recognised the rights of any couple living together in an economic and sexual relationship, and was applied equally regardless of gender or sexuality.
This was strengthened in 2009 when legislation was implemented that created registered partnerships for same-sex couples.
However, a significant barrier to marriage equality was introduced in 2012 with the adoption of a new constitution for Hungary. The new constitution explicitly restricts marriage to opposite sex couples.
Barriers to adoption and family planning also remain.
Despite polling that indicates that people in Hungary are increasingly supportive of LGBTQ equality, the current government is socially conservative and actively pushing back against the queer community.
A recent example of this tension is Hungary’s decision to withdraw from the next Eurovision song contest. While no official explanation has been given, it’s widely accepted that the event is seen as being ‘too gay’ and that Eurovision is generally seen as being associated with LGBTQ culture.