APCOM’s Executive Director Gives the Closing Plenary Statement at the 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS

By June 16, 2016 Showcase

Below is the text of the Closing Plenary Statement at the 2016 High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, Friday 10 June 2016 at United Nations General Assembly, New York, read by our Executive Director:

Mr President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, and fellow civil society participants from key populations and young key populations of gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, drug users, and people living with HIV,

What can I add from my corner of the world in this High Level Meeting? I am Midnight Poonkasetwattana, the Executive Director of APCOM, my coalition works in Asia and the Pacific; you know that part of the world where little over 60% of the world’s population lives. And I wish to make the following statement in this meeting.

“If we want to achieve fast-track to 90-90-90 by the year 2020, the time is now for urgent and increased investments in innovative regional and national approaches and programmes for and led by key populations to break down structural barriers that affect and make them vulnerable to HIV, especially of young gay men and other men who have sex with men, and transgender people in our region.”

There you have my statement and I can hear many people think that this is nothing new and that you all are aware of the situation and what needs to happen to end HIV in our life time. Wonderful, but then my question is why I, and other key populations here have to repeat ourselves in every High Level and every other meetings to make the same plea?

As a proud gay man and member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) community, I echo other Global and Asia Pacific civil society’s disappointment with the 2016 Declaration – which in our opinion is not as strong as the 2011 Declaration:

  • We are disappointed the language in key population was not stronger in the declaration as it repeatedly omits, excludes, and misrepresent the key populations of gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who use drugs, and transgender people as key populations affected by HIV worldwide.
  • Not mentioning the most affected communities is turning a blind eye on the realities in the world and the reality of HIV and AIDS. By excluding the very people here in this room from the HIV response weakens the key population programming.
  • Criminalization, discrimination and stigmatisation of gay men and other men who have sex with men increases vulnerability, and making barriers to accessing the much needed health services
  • Asia Pacific has more than 60% of the world’s population – it has the largest HIV epidemic outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, and was barely mentioned.

Asia has been experiencing a rapidly escalating epidemic among gay men and other men who have sex with men, with nearly 50% of new HIV transmissions forecasted by the year 2020, in particular from the younger age groups. This was forecasted in the 2008 Commission on AIDS in Asia – and yet we see little political commitment. Let me give you some examples:

  • Prevalence among men who have sex with men is more than 5% in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam
  • In cities, prevalence is particularly high of 15% – 31% like Bangkok, Hanoi and Jakarta
  • Only about half of men who have sex with men get tested for HIV
  • Access to condoms for low income men who sex with men is 31%and just less than 50% for high income
  • 90% of men who have sex with men in Asia Pacific do not have access to HIV prevention and care because of discriminatory laws
  • 18 out of 38 countries in the region criminalise same-sex sexual activities
  • Spending for HIV prevention for men who have sex with in the region is less than 7% of total HIV budget
  • Globally, transgender women are 50% more vulnerable to HIV

Another worrying trend is the drastic financial assistance cuts to Asia Pacific, as countries transition out of international assistance. Even UN institutions that have been supporting APCOM, has not been able to commit to support us financially this year! The trend does not look good and hurt the very people we are trying to help.

The 5th Global fund replenishment is underway within a challenging environment to regain replenishment commitments from donor governments, and transitioning countries are experiencing grave difficulties with domestic financing. The required and desired funding transition comes too quick, too abrupt and without proper planning and destroying the carefully built up investments in HIV-infrastructure and the gains in combatting the epidemic. Also, domestic financing accompanies the threat that governments will over-look and under-resource responses for community system strengthening, key populations, policy advocacy, and prevention services which are currently mostly funded through international sources.

As we leave today, with the newly adopted 2016 Declaration, I do hope that we can all utilize other opportunities to have a more progressive action and commitments on the ground to ensure equitable access to quality and non-discriminatory prevention, treatment and care and support services led and for key populations. Specifically:

  • Commit to naming of key populations and young key populations, including gay men and other men who sex with men, sex worker, transgender people and injecting drug user
  • Commit to a roadmap towards removing policies on HIV-related travel restrictions and deportation, and decriminalization of key populations and LGBTI community,
  • Commit to removing age restrictions, parental and marital consent requirements for adolescents and young people.
  • Ensure universal access to comprehensive harm reduction, sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV information services and comprehensive sexuality education for all.
  • Strengthened language on commitments to sustainable funding for civil society and meaningful community engagement
  • Commit to fully optimize the use of existing flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement specifically geared to promoting access to and trade in medicines
  • Commit to the use of innovation and bring new technology to bridge and link prevention to treatment and care and support services – in particular on the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxes for men who have sex with men, community based and led HIV testing, and HIV self-testing for example, and using social media and on-line technology for service delivery

Last but not least, I request the member states to explore, develop and maintain effective partnerships with key populations-led and -serving community organizations. I believe that there should be strong commitments from the member states to engage communities as partners, leaders and beneficiaries, including allocation of resources for community organizations, and support for the role of community led organizations in addition to service delivery, in areas of policy and advocacy engagement, quality assurance/watchdog roles, and community mobilization.

We are after all your assets and citizens – and we being here with you shows our strong commitment to end AIDS. 

Thank you very much.

Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director, APCOM

Click here to view the official invitation letter to Mr. Midnight Poonkasetwattana, in accordance with resolution 70/288, to address General Assembly the High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

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