J.V.R. Prasada Rao
Former UN Special Envoy on AIDS, Asia Pacific
APCOM HIV/AIDS Ambassador
I am happy to learn that Midnight Poonkasetwattana has completed 10 years of stewardship in APCOM. It was like yesterday when he took the reins of office!
I met Midnight during the High Level Meeting on AIDS in New York as a young activist who spoke in the plenary. I participated in the meeting as the Special Envoy to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and was impressed with Midnight’s passion with the AIDS agenda and his concern for the key populations of gay men, transgender and other sexual minorities.
Next time when I met him in Bangkok in the UN building, Midnight came up with this invitation to act as a Special Ambassador on HIV/AIDS for APCOM along with Justice Michael Kirby and President Ratu Epeli Nilatikau. I have since been involved with APCOM at the strategic level for providing need based advice and support for its multifarious activities.
I have a special affection towards APCOM as it was constituted as a regional activist body for MSM and transgenders while I was working as the Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team in Bangkok. Since its establishment, APCOM was always led by able and imaginative leaders, Midnight being the latest and longest serving Executive Director.
With his energy and enthusiasm, Midnight has been able attract support from many development partners and UNAIDS, even though the last one year have been tough going because of Covid19 crisis.
In the run up to the next High Level Meeting to take place in June 2021, APCOM is playing an important role in mobilizing civil society and key populations to make their voices heard. Midnight has been playing a key role in this process. It is necessary for us to ensure that in the name of consensus the political declaration does not compromise on its commitment to prioritise and meaningfully involve key populations in prevention, care and treatment programmes in the next ten years. The question of their being named in the declaration should be a non-negotiable issue for which every one of the organisations representing key populations and the countries should actively strive for.
I wish Midnight and APCOM many more fruitful years of activism and hard work to make a difference to the lives of MSM and other sexual minorities in the Asia Pacific region.