Providing a safe place for LGBT refugees – Queer Café International Nürnberg

by Anouk De Meulemeester

World Café Conversations are an intentional way to create a living network of conversation around questions that matter. A Café Conversation is a creative process for leading collaborative dialogue, sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action in groups of all sizes. The challenges of life in the 21st Century require us to find new ways to access the wisdom and intelligence inherent in groups both small and large. The need for collaboration, insight and coordinated action has never been greater. Café Conversations are one way that communities, businesses, governments, and people from all walks of life are using to create a common purpose, share knowledge, make more intelligent decisions, and call forth life-affirming action together. 

Drawing on a similar concept, a non-profit organisation is helping LGBT refugees in Nürnberg, Germany. 

Read more in the interview below, conducted by our contributor, Anouk De Meulemeester.

Uwe Gerdelmann is responsible for marketing and public relations at the AIDS Foundation in Nürnberg, Germany (AIDS-Hilfe Nürnberg-Erlangen-Fürth e.V.). Among other things, this organisation helps refugees in the Nürnberg area with issues concerning AIDS. Uwe is a good friend of mine. I have met him in Belgium, during our studies at Ghent University. We both participated in the exchange programme provided by the university as exchange buddies and quickly became close friends. After his return to Germany we kept in touch and he agreed to be interviewed for this article.

Hi Uwe, thank you so much for agreeing to participate in this interview! You work for AIDS-Hilfe in Nürnberg, Germany. Does Nürnberg have a large refugee population in need for such aid?

The situation in Nürnberg is the same as in any other German city and generally refugees are as rarely impacted by HIV or AIDS as any other citizen. Nevertheless, the need for counselling and HIV/STD-testing has always been there. Within the last years the demand for help from refugees from around the world did grow. Besides that, AIDS-Hilfe sees itself as an advocate for the LBGT-community.

How exactly does AIDS-Hilfe help refugees in Nürnberg? Does it also organise preventive actions?

Our main working areas are counselling, supervised living, weekly testing for HIV and other STDs, sexual education and public outreach. While fulfilling tasks, we deal with migrants and refugees. Especially for underage refugees, we provide informative classes on STDs and HIV. Some of our booklets are also published in Arabic and Farsi. But above all, we mostly get in contact with refugees through co-organizing the Queer Café International.

Could you tell me more about the concept of the Queer Café International?

The Queer Café International is a get-together for LGBT refugees. It takes place every Thursday and it is organized by AIDS-Hilfe and Fliederlich e.V. Every week, 10 – 20 persons, mostly men from around the world, gather to be at a safe place and enjoy a relaxing atmosphere. After all, refugee camps often pose a threat to members of the LGBT community. Social workers from the AIDS-Hilfe and Fliederlich e.V. are always present. So are voluntary workers and friends. The meeting is about getting together, having coffee and cake.

What are the nationalities of the refugees who attend Queer Café International?

The refugees come from countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia, Chechenia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia and Armenia. Languages spoken are English, German, Arabic, Farsi and many more.

Are these gatherings accessible to everyone or just refugees, their family, friends and volunteers?

Everyone who is a member or an ally of the LGBT community is welcome at the meetings.

Are heterosexual refugees who suffer from AIDS also welcome to these gatherings?

Another social gathering that we provide is the Positiven Café – the same concept and the same place as the Queer Café International, but for HIV-positive people. Like at any other event or get-together that we provide, refugees are welcome here.

What is the role of the social workers from AIDS-Hilfe who are present at the Queer Café International?

On the one hand, the social workers are present at the café just as any other guest. On the other hand, they are also there to help – they listen and try providing answers. We often see refugees making appointments for counselling or HIV/STD-testing, after they have talked to one of us at the café.

Half of the people working for the AIDS-Hilfe work on voluntary basis, so where does the organization get its funds?

The AIDS-Hilfe gets its financial support from the cities of Nürnberg, Erlangen and Fürth, the German government and private donations. Some donations go to the “Queer Café International” directly and these are used for covering the costs of drinks and food.

Is AIDS-Hilfe only active in the Nürnberg area or do they have more initiatives in Germany? Do they operate outside of Germany as well?

Our umbrella organisation is the Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe. Thus, we are in constant contact with AIDS-foundations all over Germany. Our work here does mostly concentrate on Northern Bavaria.

Well, I think it is a great initiative and I wish you all the best with your work for AIDS-Hilfe! Thanks again for your cooperation.

Thank you so much for the opportunity!


Anouk De Meulemeester
Anouk has recently graduated from Ghent University (Belgium) and holds a Master’s degree in both History and International Politics. She has a passion for reading and writing about international politics. Anouk is currently interested in pursuing a public affairs career in Brussels.

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