Chair, Regional Advisory Group (RAG), APCOM
My Years with APCOM
I was present at the Risks and Responsibilities: Male Sexual Health and HIV in Asia and the Pacific International Consultation held in Delhi in September 2006, which gave birth to the Asia-Pacific Coalition of Male Sexual Health (APCOM). I was a member of the Interim Governing Board, later formalized as Governing Board, from 2007 to 2016, when it was restructured and renamed Regional Advisory Group. In January 2013 I took over from the late Shivananda Khan, OBE (Shiv), Founder and first Chair of the Board (2007-2012), and have continued to serve in that position until now.
10 Years of Midnight Poonkasetwattana as Executive Director
In 2011, as APCOM’s work was expanding, Midnight Poonkasetwattana was hired as Executive Director of the organization, until this day.
In late 2012, Shiv’s health took a turn for the worse, and I was invited to sit on the Executive Committee, which had a vacant seat because of a member’s resignation. I did not hesitate in accepting the invitation, but was filled with trepidation when I found out that Shiv was very unwell, and that the other Executive Committee members then asked me to serve as Interim Chair.
What mitigated my anxiety was that Midnight was the Executive Director, and I had noticed during the previous year or so how he very capably steered the day-to-day operation of the organization and even helped make it grow fairly rapidly. I had met Midnight when in the autumn of 2009 I was invited to the International HIV/AIDS Alliance headquarters in Brighton, UK, by Ted Nierras, an old friend from my early days working on HIV/AIDS in the 1990s. Alliance was about to submit a project proposal working on Indonesia, so Ted, knowing I was in London then for speaking engagements at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on HIV and on the LGBTI+ movement in Indonesia, respectively. Midnight struck me as an intelligent person who knew what he was doing and was familiar with all the issues in the Southeast Asian region.
Later on I learned that Midnight was Coordinator of Purple Sky Network (PSN), a network of organizations working on gay men, other MSM and transgender people and HIV in the Greater Mekong Subregion. It was at the APCOM Governing Board meeting that, to my pleasant surprise, I met him again, this time representing PSN on the Board. He is, as I later learn more, a natural communicator and networker, and a hard worker.
Thus it was that when other Executive Committee members looked at me and asked me to serve as Interim Chair at that meeting in late 2012, I accepted since I knew I would have the support of an Executive Director who is good in terms of work habits, responsibility, team work and communication.
The rest, as they say, is history. In January 2013, as Shiv’s health became worse, I was confirmed as Chair of APCOM’s Governing Board. In the eight years that Midnight and I have led APCOM, he has steered the organization through thick and thin, from success to success and through very difficult crises. He has made APCOM a star in the various HIV-related networks in Asia and the Pacific, on the surface because the brilliant branding he’s succeeded to create for APCOM, but more substantially because APCOM has become a reliable partner for other networks such as ILGA, APN+, ANPUD and others; scientific organizations like the IAS; donor organizations like the Global Fund and Hivos, and UNAIDS and other UN agencies at the global and Asia-Pacific levels.
So in celebrating your ten years at APCOM, Midnight, may I salute you and sing your praises, and thank you profusely. It is not a hyperbole to say that you have taken APCOM to many other levels over those ten years, and our partners and the gay and other MSM communities in Asia and the Pacific, and indeed elsewhere in the world, owe you much appreciation.