APCOM Regional Advisory Group Chair
Bryan Choong was elected as the new Chair of the APCOM Regional Advisory Group on 5 December 2021. We caught up with him for a short interview.
Bryan spent more than 15 years working on community health issues for the LGBTQI communities in Singapore, including Oogachaga and The Greenhouse and volunteering for The T Project and Same but Different Legal Project
He believes in empowering, mobilising and tapping communities’ knowledge and experiences to address social issues.
Bryan was one of three people who challenged the law that criminalises sex between men in Singapore.
See his biography here
“As APCOM moves further in its second decade, we hope to see continued innovative programs to reduce new HIV infections, end AIDS and create an enabling environment for gay men, other MSM, and diverse SOGIESC people in Asia and the Pacific achieve better rights, health and well-being.”Bryan Choong
Congratulations on your being Chair of the Regional Advisory Group. How are you feeling about this?
I am excited and honoured to be elected as the new Chair of the Regional Advisory Group. I followed APCOM work closely for the past decade and am inspired by the amazing works by the team. I always want to contribute to APCOM and its regional work so this is a wonderful opportunity for me to serve.
You have big shoes to fill in after Dédé Oetomo.
Would you like to say a few words to him?
Before joining APCOM, I met Dédé in several engagements, including my first LGBTQI conference in Bangkok as a young(er) activist. He is truly a pioneer in the LGBTQI and HIV work and someone I look up to.
On behalf of the new RAG, thank you Dédé for your years of contributions to APCOM. You have been very generous in sharing your experiences, expertise and wisdom. I hope we can continue to work together to advance LGBTQI and HIV issues in Asia Pacific.
What can be expected under your leadership as the Chair of the Regional Advisory Group?
I am looking to partner with my fellow Regional Advisory Group members and APCOM Secretariat in deepening our support and partnership with the NGOs and stakeholders who are concerned with the human rights, sexual and mental health issues faced by the LGBTQI communities in Asia Pacific.
APCOM has built many strong bridges with partners in South Asian and Southeast Asian countries and we will continue to do so. There are also many opportunities for APCOM to broaden our collaborations in sub regions such as Pacific and East Asia.
HIV will continue to take the centre stage in APCOM work. What we can potentially do more is strengthening our work in other related issues such as mental health and drug use issues faced by the LGBTQI communities.
APCOM must continue to do what it does best: forming partnerships and networks, building capacity of NGOs, empowering community involvement, enabling resource mobilisation and supporting the development of evidence-based interventions. We will continue to leverage our presence in various networks to voice the diverse issues and concerns faced by the LGBTQI communities.
To achieve all these, APCOM also needs to look into our internal resources and capacity. The Secretariat team is made up by our passionate and dedicated members. The Regional Advisory Group will be working the Secretariat to identity opportunities for learning and development so that our team is more equipped and supported as we move forward in our next decade of work.
Organisational sustainability is an issue for non-profits, and with both the Covid-19 pandemic, and the HIV epidemic, sustainability will be even more challenging. What opportunities do you see for non-profits in our region to explore for organisational sustainability?
Medical advancement in HIV prevention such as PrEP is great news for the LGBTQI communities but it also starts to shift the attention and resources from psychosocial interventions and awareness work that many NGOs do very well.
As researched by APCOM, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted our NGOs significantly. Many public health measures affected their service delivery and advocacy work. NGOs could not serve the communities as effectively as before. They now need to compete for a smaller pool of resources as funders and grant makers reprioritised where their money should go.
NGOs which could not reform their service delivery model and demonstrate the effectiveness of their work are most likely to be impacted these changes.
The good thing is that many NGOs have built their supporter bases through years of work and should now think about how to tap on these for human resource and financial resource mobilisation. NGO staff can better invest their time and effort in specialised areas while leverage more on volunteers to carry out programme or advocacy work. This can ensure their work continue even if the resources for HIV psychosocial work shrinks or movement restrictions continue.
Another positive news emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic is that corporations are now starting to reexamine or increase their corporate social responsibility work. More corporates are invested in social causes and are prepared to contribute both human and financial resources. This calls for a mindset shift in NGOs and corporations on how they can build more meaningful partnerships.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I look forward to meet our NGO partners and stakeholders in the coming months. And hopefully there will be less travel restrictions so that I can meet the APCOM Secretariat team in person real soon.
Check out an interview with our former Regional Advisory Group Chair