An ongoing call for continued support and response amid an ongoing pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the stark inequalities in access to healthcare, food and other basic services and needs, both locally and globally.
From very early on (March 23-30) in the COVID pandemic APCOM carried out a survey of 9 countries (Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka) to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on communities with diverse SOGIESC, services and providers in the Asia Pacific Region. The surveys results were released on April 3rd as the first reports in APCOMs newsletter series. From June to August 2020 APCOM surveyed a further seven countries and obtained additional data from India and Sri Lanka. The data from this second survey are discussed in this second series. This fourth and last report in the series calls for continued support and response amid an ongoing pandemic
All nine countries implemented a number of non-pharmaceutical measures in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. The situation in each country has evolved at different rates and each country has set its own strategy on how, when and to what extent, to implement and lift measures.
Government responses to COVID-19 have impacted on KPs, KP service delivery, CBOs and human rights work and advocacy, both at country and regional level. APCOM reiterates that all interventions should be rights-based and viewed through a SOGIESC lens. Doing this successfully will ensure that rights are respected, existing vulnerabilities are not aggravated and are looked into in an appropriate manner. This will contribute to realising the goal of leaving no-one behind.
CSOs identified another number of areas where donors, policy makers and supporters are able to provide support in addition to those pointed out by other countries in the previous survey:
- Policies are required to ensure an integrated HIV/AIDs and COVID-19 prevention, diagnosis and treatment program
- Appropriate IT capability has been shown to be a fundamental enabler during this pandemic. Providing support to partner agencies and service users to obtain the appropriate IT hardware, software and skills development must be prioritised;
- Virtual services and events have the ability to both increase reach and efficiency. There has been an increasing drive to consider virtual services and events as a complementary support for existing services and events going forward. This would be valuable as there remains a real concern about second and third COVID-19 waves which would then require reverting to primarily online services. Donors need to recognise the results from these virtual services and develop appropriate progress indicators;
- Reliable and context-relevant information on COVID-19 is key to ensuring the health, safety and security of both populations and CBO staff. There is an imperative to provide appropriate education and information to both staff and peer counsellors;
- HIVST, PrEP and multi-month dispensing demonstration projects, together with new initiatives such as home delivery, were expedited in many countries as part of the effort to maintain safe service provision and prevent loss to follow up. They proved to be very successful and there is now a clear need to increase the support for scale up and roll out in those countries and to resume demonstration projects in those countries where these were suspended;
- Provide support where needed for a full situation analysis and impact assessment of COVID-19 on HIV services (e.g. Myanmar)
- For regional networks such as APCOM to continue providing leadership in advocating for the SOGIESC community and to continue providing clear communications and messaging across the region for both the SOGIESC community and the wider population