25 March 2013
Bangkok, Thailand: On the eve of its sixth birthday, the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) with new leadership and expanded constituencies is urging all coalition partners to renew efforts to ensure access to social, health and legal rights for all men who have sex with men and transgender persons across the region.
“While we’ve been around for a while now and have succeeded in pushing MSM and HIV issues ever higher on national and regional agendas, a lot of work remains to be done,” noted Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director, APCOM. “All our stakeholders need to work even more closely together to ensure that the benefits of our achievements are truly felt at the community level. That’s why we’re launching a strategic new website today which intends to create a genuine online neighborhood where stories of best practices, lessons learnt and challenges overcome are widely shared, ensuring that we reach governments and policy makers as well as the grassroots of the grassroots, thereby truly fulfilling the mandate spelt out when APCOM was born.”
In 2006, 380 people from 26 countries – government officials, policy-makers, donors, researchers, grassroots and community-based organisations across Asia and the Pacific – convened in New Delhi for an international consultation dubbed Risks and Responsibilities. The goal was to facilitate dialogue and learning that would enable more investment and effective strategies to address male sexual health related in particular to HIV. It also provided an opportunity to inform and develop strategic advocacy initiatives by discussing key policies related to these issues. The consultation ended with participants calling for the formation of a wide-ranging regional alliance of civil society groups, HIV/AIDS organisations, MSM and transgender networks, along with international donor, development and government agencies.
The mandate was clear: to strongly advocate for activities that increase investment for rapid scale-up of HIV prevention, care and support services for MSM and transgender persons across the region at a time when the epidemic was escalating rapidly in those populations.
With initial funding and support from Hivos, UNDP and the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, APCOM was created and began its operations at the first meeting of the Interim Governing Board of Directors in July 2007.
“We have been successful over the past six years in working with multiple external stakeholders, helping establish many new sub-regional networks, and contributing significantly towards advocacy and policy development,” said Poonkasetwattana. “We’re now strengthening our own house internally by consolidating the APCOM Secretariat in one place, Bangkok; expanding our organisation by adding key new positions; fine-tuning the composition of our Board of Directors who serve distinct sub-regions; and adding representation from young people via the vibrant new coalition Youth voices Count.”
Reflecting all these internal changes amid an increasingly challenging environment vis-à-vis MSM and HIV issues, APCOM has new branding – the result of an in-depth development phase during which internal and external stakeholders and partners were consulted extensively about APCOM’s track record to date, what it should be doing given the current realities of the epidemic, and the coalition’s long-term objectives and goals.
APCOM’s new branding is bright and vibrant in colour and feel, with brick-textured circles used to symbolise our identity, to show movement, energy and solidarity – just like the organisations and the communities APCOM represents. Circles clearly depict a sense of connectivity strengthened via a strong chain – a strong network, a strong coalition.
Beyond the look there’s also a lot of substance. At the heart of the new website is a knowledge center which APCOM calls The Source. The Source will develop into a one-stop shop for information on MSM and transgender HIV and advocacy-related issues and content within Asia and the Pacific. The website and The Source will provide strong links to other quality content for people within the region, as well as expanding linkages to other partners outside Asia and the Pacific such as the Global Forum on MSM and HIV (MSMGF), the Eurasian Coalition on Male Health (ECOM), the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), ASICAL (Latin-American MSM coalition), and Caribbean vulnerable Communities coalition (C-C) for example.
“We are at a critical and exciting time in our evolution,” said Dédé Oetomo, the new Chair of APCOM, also the representative of the Islands of South-East Asian Network (ISEAN), one of the several sub-regional networks created under APCOM. “Funding for HIV programmes is dwindling at a time when the epidemic is hitting our communities harder than ever. It remains difficult to engage with governments amid their ever-shifting health and development priorities. Our communities are clamoring for, and deserve, more and more space at the policy table if we are to ensure their long-term well-being. By taking a long, hard look at ourselves and positioning APCOM to tackle all these challenges more effectively, we are reaffirming our commitment to our communities and all other partners on this journey.”
For more information on APCOM, please visit our website www.apcom.org
Communications and Advocacy Officer
Bangkok, Thailand +66 86 360 5062 (mobile)
Download a copy of this: APCOM Brand And Website Release – 25 March 2013 [pdf]