Inspiring Possibilities: It’s a Wrap for RRRAP Con 2020

By November 26, 2020 Advocacy, Newsroom, Regional

Bangkok, 26 November 2020

Summary of the RRRAP Con 2020

The RRRAP Con 2020 provides a regional platform for key populations and LGBTQI+ community to discuss and share important innovations, updates and lessons learned on HIV and human rights work. As we are operating in a COVID-19 era, better coordination is needed among the community.

The conference also enables community partners to effectively engage with national programs as well as scaling up the roles they play in advocacy, design, implementation and monitoring. This is also an opportunity to discuss possible innovations in engaging various stakeholders and players in LGBTQI+ inclusion.

Here is a quick round up of what were discussed during the RRRAP Con 2020 – a full report will be shared later. 

Live Virtual Opening:
Asia-Pacific a forgotten middle child? 

On Monday, 23 November, the APCOM Community Summit 2020 kicked off virtually in Bangkok with APCOM’s Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana; Eamonn Murphy, Regional Director UNAIDS Asia Pacific; Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, Professor Emeritus, Chulalongkorn University; Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and Dr. Ronivin Garcia Pagtakhan, the Executive Director and Founder of The Love Yourself. 

The LIVE Virtual Opening of the Summit focused on the sustainability of HIV programming, community-led differentiated service delivery, research, engagement with the private sector on LGBTQI+ inclusion, and most especially, human rights in the context of COVID-19. The opening session, Eamonn Murphy highlighted the importance of our role as community-based organisations, our solidarity and resilience, in leading innovative service delivery and amplifying the impact of COVID-19. He urged us not to stop making noise about the needs of the community and push for equity, dignity and social justice. 

The development of the Global AIDS Strategy Beyond 2021 calls us to not forget that concentrated HIV epidemic occur amongst key population, especially among the gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and those younger than 25 years of age. 

Prof. Muntharborn urges us to reach out to other sectors, rather than talking to the converted, and not be afraid to have the difficult conversations.  

Dr. Kamarulzaman highlighted the need to conduct and share community-led research particularly on how communities have been able to innovate and reach those who are harder to reach, and most vulnerable, as communities have been able to do this despite interruptions and impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.

From the community perspective, Dr. Pagtakhan reminded us that communities need to be more visible and come together more than ever, and the RRRAP Con 2020 provides a rare platform for communities in Asia Pacific to share and learn. 

Three other sessions took place on Monday 23 November. The first two were on fundraising during period of COVID-19 pandemic, and how to engage with the private sector. The other pre-conference session was about progresses on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) implementation in Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, and the Philippines.

Tuesday 24 Nov:
Three concurrent streams 

1 – The need for community-led Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD)

COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding restrictions caused interruptions in service delivery, at the same time, created barriers to key population’s access to needed HIV services including ART. Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) in Asia-Pacific implemented innovative approaches in delivering services to the community to ensure there is continuity of service delivery. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) or community models of service delivery to expand and increase the access of HIV services, especially ART, to key populations and PLHIVs.  

Experts from International AIDS Society (IAS), World Health Organization (WHO), presented on the DSD framework and guidelines, and PATH Vietnam and FHI 360 Indonesia presented country examples on how HIV services were to be delivered to address interruptions caused by COVID-19 time for PrEP and Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drugs. Asia is behind in terms of DSD implementation. 

Through DSD, community-based/-led service delivery will increase to reduce facility-based distribution of services. With the advancement of the internet, almost everyone from all walks of life is connected through online platforms-key populations included. It is fast, easy and most would say affordable. The online world is also commonly perceived as a safe space for the key populations. These digital platforms have become a central component during current pandemic situation, which can be used as an alternative for an effective outreach for HIV interventions, particularly to the hard to reach key populations who are not identified with conservative outreach. Online platforms can also act as a powerful change maker tool, such as promoting the rights of LGBTQI+ community.

APCOM’s community partners from India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines shared their innovative approaches and techniques adopted in delivering HIV services for their key populations, and exploring opportunities for sustainable approaches in the new normal era. 

2 – No Time for Excuses: U=U in Asia-Pacific

Another highlight was the discussion on ‘Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U)’ starting from understanding the science of the landmark principle of U=U to ensure that people living with HIV understands the importance of accessing ART on time, as well as, being adherent to the treatment. ARTs are proven to be efficacious in suppressing the HIV and helps in achieving an ‘undetectable’ viral load, therefore adherence to treatment is very important. The U=U messaging empowers the PLHIV to demand access to treatment and addresses the stigma and discrimination from health care providers against PLHIV.

The highlights include the sharing of country experiences of U=U implementation from Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam encouraging a community-led campaign that is sex positive and de-stimatizing, and to be aware of backlash that can occur from both within the community, service providers as well as general public. And a session on effective strategies on how to maximize online digital platforms features for demand generation. These sharing will help form the body of information for others to start and advocate in their country on U=U. 

3 – Meaningful Community Participation and Community-based Monitoring

India and Myanmar shared from a key population perspective their engagements with PEPFAR Regional Operational Plans (ROP) and discussed barriers for community engagement in light of COVID-19 in 2020 and their recommendations for the ROP 2021 which will take place in the first quarter. 

The session “U” and “I” complete the “Community” – The roles of Key Population in community-led monitoring (CLM) facilitated conversations about the community-led mechanism (CLM) context and framework. The key populations from Bhutan, Laos, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka, different countries will reveal their roles and journey under the CLM project, experiences on country discussions on tools and data collection to effectively engage with stakeholders on improving the access and quality of HIV services for key populations. This session was joined by the Global Fund CRG team. 

Wednesday 25 Nov:
Diversity and Solidarity

1 – Perspectives, Experiences and Possibilities: Towards an inclusive private sector in Asia and the Pacific

Mixed panelists from the community in Laos and the Philippines, and business sector IBM and a researcher from the Chinese University of Hong Kong discussed the LGBTQI+ situation, the situation of LGBTQI+ inclusion in the private sector, including trends and challenges, globally and in the region.

This was followed by a panel to present and discuss frameworks from which we can anchor diversity and LGBTQI+ inclusion in the private sector, including Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, Prof. M. V. Lee Badgett. Lee, and Paul Thompson of LGBT Capital. 

What are the human rights imperatives for diversity and inclusion in the private sector? Why is inclusion in the private sector a good business proposition? Why is inclusion in the private sector good for LGBTQI+ people?  Why is inclusion good for economies? What are the human rights imperatives for LGBTQI+ inclusion? Why do the human rights imperative and the business imperatives for inclusion go hand in hand?

The last session looked at challenges for LGBTQI+ inclusion in the private sector in the context of COVID-19, and how the private sector can be partners in the overall goal of equality. It will also explore how some sectors can be more LGBTQI+ inclusive specifically in the finance, tourism, and social media sectors. It will also discuss how LGBTQI+ regional and country organizations can engage the private sector towards diversity and inclusion.

2 – Covid-19 and Community Solidarity 

Sessions looking at the effect of COVID-19 in the community and community-led data collection of vulnerable groups, to use for advocacy with examples from Thailand and the Philippines.  

LGBTQI+ community leaders from Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Tonga, shared their personal and organisational effect of COVID-19, and reflected on their leadership journey. 

Supported by ASHM and APN+, a learning session on the science of COVID-19, and what we know about the effect of COVID-19 on PLHIV, and a reflection from a PLHIV. 

Not such a taboo topic now, but harder to reach are MSM who engage in Chemsex – a session discussing different strategies for outreach and making services available. 

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