FACTS: (The background of this story)
- The COVID-19 pandemic had led governments of several countries impose lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus. The lockdowns have restricted the mobility of the population. It also effectively closed down business establishments, particularly in the tourism, service and entertainment sectors, causing many people to lose their jobs.
- Gay men, men who are having sex with men (MSM), transgender community, sex workers, who are engaged in informal service and entertainment work have lost their jobs.
- These communities are experiencing economic downturn as the COVID-19 worsens in some countries.
- These are the key populations who, due to social and legal issues, face higher risk of HIV infection.
- Funding agencies and other global, regional and country networks have extended emergency relief for purposes of supporting other organisations affected by COVID-19 pandemic.
REFLECT ON: (Reading between the lines, we want our readers to reflect on the following)
- Without addressing the issues faced by key populations at the grassroots level, the social inequalities and discrimination will aggravate and may contribute to the increasing number of HIV infections.
- How severe are the effects of COVID-19 outbreak and government lockdowns to key population’s access to HIV service delivery?
- Are the funding agencies, both at regional and country level, truly addressing the immediate needs of the key populations and LGBTIQ communities at the grassroots level?
- Are we (all of us) doing enough to address the issues faced by the individuals who need our help?
- How has COVID19 exacerbated the experiences of discrimination and marginalization of LGBTQI communities and key populations in terms of access to basic services including health and employment?
- Are the existing programs and responses to COVID19 inclusive of marginalized and discriminated communities and populations?
- What can be done to ensure that existing gaps in response are addressed?
- How does the advocacy work / programmes in relation to improve the lives of LGBTI communities have been affected?
We, the APCOM Secretariat, feel grateful that, through four (4) community-based organisations, we are able to support around 200 MSM, transgender and LGBTIQ individuals who were significantly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. These are the individuals who were in the service and entertainment sector, and lost their jobs because of government impositions of lockdowns and restrictions to mobility. With a humble amount of financial support, these 200 individuals may be able to feed themselves and their families during this uneventful crisis.
#CoronaAPCOMpassion is an emergency relief mechanism which we, the APCOM Secretariat, voluntarily and collectively created to provide immediate responses needed by grassroots key populations who are significantly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and corresponding government lockdowns. To create this emergency relief mechanism, we have voluntarily donated parts of our salaries to form the start-up fund for #CoronaAPCOMpassion. The relief mechanism was created in April 2020, and started to operationalize in May 2020. The emergency relief mechanism donated USD 500 to each of the country-based CBOs, with total donations made amounting to USD 2,000.
In May 2020, our emergency relief mechanism extended donations to two (2) community-based organisations in Pakistan and Indonesia. Dareecha Male Health Society, based in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, has received our donation to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), food package for small families, and other essential supplies such as medicine. These relief items were distributed to MSM, transgender women, sex workers and people living with HIV in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
“Dareecha would like to thank the whole APCOM team for donating their salaries. I have mentioned a few remarks regarding […] donors to give some attention as the community is in need at this time.
APCOM has always done a lot when it comes to capacity building and community empowerment. Now on behalf of the whole staff of Dareecha and the community, I really wanted to say that whatever the amount is, whether it is One Rupee or any, if the community organisation is feeling the pain for the community, then we really mean it when we say Thank you!” – Muhammad Usman, Dareecha Male Health Society
Perkumpulan Suara Kita, a CBO based in Jakarta, Indonesia, working on human rights of LGBTIQ community, used the donation they received to purchase packs of essential supplies to include rice, canned goods, beans, cooking oil, and hand sanitisers. The relief items were distributed to fifty (50) individual recipients for themselves and their families. The recipients are LGBTIQ individuals who have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“COVID-19 has a massive impact on daily lives. Many of our community members work in the informal sector so they rarely have social security from their workplace. Most of their work [include] drivers, street singers, and sex workers. Due to the government requirement on social distancing, most of our (LGBTIQ) community are not able to work as usual […] (and) have difficulties in affording basic needs. There are cases where they cannot afford rent, so they are forced (evicted) by property owners.
Thank you so much for your solidarity. God bless you all!” – Teguh Iman Affandi, Perkumpulan Suara Kita
In June 2020, two (2) more CBOs received our donation to further support key populations or LGBTIQ individuals who are experiencing economic challenges because of COVID-19 outbreak. Gopi Shankar Madurai, based in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, is working on human rights of LGBTIQ community. They used the received donations to purchase essential supplies such as basic food and medicines for MSM and transgender women, especially for the young people, within their community. Since the imposition of government lockdown, the transgender and hijra community in India, especially those whose work include begging and sex work, have lost their sources of income.
“From Srishti Madurai LGBTQIA+ Student Volunteer Movement we are really grateful to all those who have contributed to #CoronaAPCOMpassion. The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a public health issue. It has brought out the (social) inequalities that exist in the world around us. Given the scale and severity of the unfolding crisis, the measures are not nearly enough. Therefore, it is important for us to contribute in helping out to those who need it the most.
#CoronaAPCOMpassion is one such brilliant initiative which cultivates the much-needed spirit of solidarity amongst people. To survive COVID-19, it is imperative to cultivate a sense of fellow-feeling and community consciousness in people to inspire a collective action. […] Also, we really appreciate the efforts of APCOM in taking this initiative. Once the pandemic recedes, it is imperative that the ethos of mutual caring and support becomes a permanent feature in public life relevant for all times.” – Gopi Shankar Madurai, Shrishti Madurai
Yayasan Gaya Dewata (YGD), a community-led organisation working for sexual health of MSM, transgender women and people living with HIV, is based in Bali, Indonesia. We worked with YGD in 2017 as one of our partners for the WISDOM Project. Since the COVID-19 outbreak and the government lockdown in Indonesia, they have been supporting MSM and transgender women who were working for the service and entertainment sector who have been economically affected. They also worked to make sure that PLHIV have access to life-saving ART. They received our donation and used it to purchase bags of basic supplies including rice, egg, noodles, canned goods and medicine. They were able to distribute the relief goods to fifty (50) MSM and transgender individuals.
“COVID-19 has hit the community hard, with many of (LGBTIQ) members struggling with dwindling income and increased stress about (uncertainty of) the future. Effects on tourism have been profound and widespread as tourism accounts between 54 to 58 percent of the province’s economy. […] This is having a direct effect on communities and their access to basic needs such as food, secure accommodation and utilities.
The community has been the foundation for all effective responses to health pandemics, from HIV and until COVID-19. We send our warmest thanks to those who have contributed to the #coronaAPCOMpassion fund. These acts of solidarity throughout the region show that our communities are larger, stronger and more interdependent than ever.” – Yayasan Gaya Dewata, Bali, Indonesia
We at APCOM are hopeful that we can generate more fund for #coronaAPCOMpassion. With more donations to the emergency fund mechanism that we have created, we may be able to financially support more individuals in different countries.
#coronaAPCOMpassion assists not only the MSM, transgender and LGBTIQ individuals, but also their families and loved ones.
To contribute to #CoronaAPCOMpassion
please make your transfer to:
87/2 No. 114, 1st Floor, All Seasons Place Retail Center, Wireless Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan Bangkok 10330, Thailand
#CoronaAPCOMpassion Contributed by:
- Anan Boonsri
- Chatsuda Hanbang
- Dennis Altman
- Geoff Manthey
- Inad Q. Rendon
- Midnight Poonkasetwattana
- Ramil Andag
- Roy Wadia
- Selvan Punidha
- Thisanut Keawnukul
- Vaness S. Kongsakul
- Wattana Keiangpa