On 27 and 28 May 2013, APCOM attended the “Continuing to advance the sexual health and well-being of MSM and Transgender people in the Pacific: Building collaboration beyond the HIV/STI Response Fund” meeting hosted by New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) . The goal was to form a snapshot of the current situation and consolidate key issues to advocate for sustainable funding to programmes supporting MSM and Transgender people and their wellbeing in the Pacific.
Key issues from the discussion were:
- Reliable Data: Current low reported HIV prevalence in the Pacific should not allow for complacency. The primary testing populations have been women attending antenatal clinics and blood donors. With limited testing of other key affected populations it is likely that there is under reporting of HIV in the Pacific region. The update suggests more targeted surveillance and testing of potential high risk groups is required, as well as expansion of voluntary counselling and testing sites.
- STI Reduction: More attention is also required towards working towards the reduction of the very high prevalence of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly chlamydia, which increases the risk of HIV transmission.
- Accessible and user friendly HIV prevention, treatment and care: To achieve the 3 Zeroes Strategies, the Pacific needs to maintain investment in prevention, treatment and care, while working to remove barriers for MSM and TG. Given the high levels of stigma, issues of criminalisation, and the great distances involved in the Pacific, this will require on-going funding support for the short to medium term.
- Community mobilisation and advocacy: To overcome key barriers of stigma and advocate for law reform and human rights, adequate investment in civil society organisations and networks in the region is crucial – particularly given the lack of investment from many domestic governments.
For more information about the HIV epidemic and responses in the Pacific, contact The Pacific Sexual Diversity Network (PSDN) in Tonga at [email protected] or www.psdnetwork.org
Photo Caption: Participants at the meeting