Youth for Health, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
To date, Mongolia has less than 300 COVID-19 cases. However, government’s measures have affected Youth for Health (YFH) activities. YFH is also APCOM partner working on the regional Global Fund Sustainability of HIV Services for Key Populations in Asia (SKPA) grant.
YFH is an NGO working to test, treat, contain HIV among MSM and transgender people, give positive information on sexual health and give positive information on gender orientation and gender identity to the public, and ultimately to change attitudes in the society. In 2020 before COVID-19, with support from the Global Fund SKPA grant, has been carrying out its main project of testing and treatment of HIV among MSM and transgender communities. Also, in collaboration with SKPA, we were working on introducing new ways of testing and preventing HIV infections using oral test kits and PrEP, making HIV related services more accessible (online) and friendlier for MSM and transgender people.
There have been no deaths in Mongolia so far, and there have been no confirmed cases from inside the country. Since May 1st the lockdown in the country has softened allowing us to carry out public events (trainings and etc.) with very limited participants and strict regulations. Also, the number of patients being treated at the organization has increased and work hours for full-time staff has been extended. Luckily, the pandemic had not affected the organization’s funding. Financially, the staff of the organization were not affected.
How you have been able to provide sexual health services even during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During the heightened state of the lockdown, YFH was only accepting patients who really needed testing and treatment. The tests and treatments were given one at a time.
Also, during the heightened state of the lockdown, YFH in collaboration with People in Need NGO, prepared and gave survival kits to support elderly MSM and transgender in poor living conditions who have been deeply affected by the pandemic.
Since the softening of the lockdown, YFH can now carry out public events but with a very limited number of participants and strict regiments, such as sitting 1 meter apart from each other, using hand sanitizers and wearing masks at all times. YFH organized four training events for MSM with 15 participants at a time. The event focused on educating MSM on HIV, safe sexual behaviors and also tested the participants for HIV.
Counselling and medical advice are now given in person and online.
Talks of collaboration and possible future collaborations with other organizations have started.
What are the main worries in your organisation on the impact of COVID-19?
Since the softening of the lockdown, the organization is now working hard to reach past months’ indicators as the organization can now organize public events, such as trainings, celebratory events and other events.
COVID-19 is still impacting the economy of the country, but since the softening of the lockdown, the economy should start to recover a bit. However, it is not certain whether the government will further soften the lockdown or toughen it, so the economy may not recover at all.
YFH may be able to carry out mobile outreach services in rural areas of the country if the current state of the lockdown continues or softens further.
If you were having a meeting with donors and supporters what would you like to say to them?
Our main concern is how the indicator for 2020 will be assessed. Even though Mongolia has not been hit as hard as other countries, the lockdown however has hit YFH operations significantly, so much so that it has a high chance of not reaching the year’s indicator. We hope that donor organizations will take into account the COVID-19 pandemic and its colossal effects on the whole world when assessing the year’s indicator.
We would like other countries and organizations to not focus only on COVID-19 and ignore other infectious diseases.