Six Asian Countries Remind UNAIDS Executive Director to not forget the region’s Key Population needs for World AIDS Day 2020

By November 30, 2020 Advocacy, Learning, Newsroom, Regional

Bangkok, 30 November 2020

APCOM together with six community organisations submitted letters to UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, each letter strongly outlined recommendations of what are needed to CONTINUE, START and STOP for the Global AIDS Strategy.

The UNAIDS strategy development process is currently ongoing to shape a new global AIDS strategy that will serve as a road map for the world to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. UNAIDS committed that the global strategy review and development process must “be inclusive, participatory, interactive, multisectoral and multilevel in order to fully inspire inputs from everyone, particularly those whose voices are not often heard owing to stigma, marginalization and exclusion.”

“There’s an overarching concern that the country-level voices are being left out as some community members are not able to contribute to the strategy development as the COVID-19 pandemic restricted physical consultations. The voices of those stigmatized, marginalized must be heard to ensure meaningful participation from key population communities at the country level, along with their needs, should be reflected in the new Global AIDS strategy,”

commented Midnight Poonkasetwattana, APCOM Executive Director

APCOM, together with community organizations in India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan, are joining hands to develop country-specific advocacy letters to enable the key populations meaningfully to contribute to the new Global AIDS strategy beyond 2021. For the development of these letters, APCOM went through several consultation meetings with the country partners, who then conducted more consultation processes within internal bodies of their organization and key population communities at the country level.

“Acknowledgment of the key emerging issues, strategizing and successful implementation to bring the desired changes.”

Yashwinder Singh, Director Policies of The Humsafar Trust India said

The letters sent on 24 November addressed to UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, highlighted specific issues from each respective country, such as the current HIV epidemic situation, legal environment, level of community engagement in the decision-making process in the country and COVID-19 impact on community-based organizations service delivery and key population community. Calling UNAIDS for greater resources to be diverted to community-led interventions, to support the sustainability of the community networks and organisations, and to put more resources into prevention, and to implement and scale up innovations such as PrEP, HIVST, and U=U.

The recent Seizing The Moment report reveals alarming data that in the Asia-Pacific region,

  • Gay men and other men who have sex with men account for 44% of new HIV infections;
  • Young gay men and other men who have sex with men (15-24 years old) account for 52% of new HIV infections;
  • Half of key population living with HIV are not aware of their HIV status;
  • Only one quarter of gay men and other men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs in the region—and less than half of transgender people and female sex workers—receive the HIV prevention services they need;
  • Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) access is still limited.


Examples of what these countries are asking for are,

For UNAIDS to CONTINUE:

  • Increase community involvement through capacity building in order to achieve meaningful participation in advocacy;
  • Strengthen the capacity of community organization and more focus on fulfillment to gay men, other men who have sex with men and transgender women (GMT) key population in the scope of mentoring, prevention, care and support by developing alternative and innovative strategies;
  • Human rights and gender sensitive approach is crucial to overcome barriers and improve the quality of outreach amidst increasingly intolerant situations for the GMT community.

For UNAIDS to START:

  • Political will needs to be rejuvenated across the Asia. The fading commitment to HIV response poses a greater threat to nations like India which has high disease burden. This comes at a time when governments need to find the political will to control the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its serious consequences for the economy and society in general;
  • Community based organizations need greater recognition by governments of the critical contribution tothe HIV response. These organisations are concerned that their voice is not sufficiently heard. Community and key population-led service delivery is essential to overcome the barriers to access and retention that clinical providers cannot independently overcome;
  • Existing laws and ineffective implementation are major barriers to eliminating AIDS. For example, the decriminalization of sex work is the key to securing rights for sex workers or implementation of progressive judgements like IPC377 and NALSA judgement on transgender community in India. A greater focus on ensuring legal protection and support for key populations would be a step forward.

For UNAIDS to STOP:

  • Under the current HIV prevention programs, the key populations were excluded based on their age, which is highly discriminatory and a major gap in program. In India, the key populations who are above 45 years of age were not covered in targeted Intervention programs of NACO. The current program should stop segregation of key populations based on their age. There is strong need to work with senior MSM & TGW populations;
  • Stop activities that excludes engagement of communities and CBOs in the HIV response initiatives;
  • Stop investing high amount on activities led by UNAIDS, international NGOs, Government (e.g. involved as project staffs for supporting implementation in prevention and treatment programme). Instead, delegate those activities to community organizations, with provided technical guidance by UNAIDS. 

The 47th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board will take place 15-18 December 2020 where the draft of the strategy will be discussed.

Find out more about the Decisions made at the 46th PCB Session here.

APCOM would like to thank the following individuals and organisations for taking an active part in this important advocacy:

  • Yashwinder Singh & Murugesan Sivasubramaian – The Humsafar Trust, India
  • Tengku Surya Mihari & Wawa Reswana – GWL-INA, Indonesia
  • Myagmardorj Dorjgotov & Galsanjamts Nyampurev – Youth for Health, Mongolia
  • Dr. Min Thet Phyo San – Myanmar Youth Stars Network, Myanmar
  • Manisha Dhakal & Sanjay Sharma – Blue Diamond Society, Nepal
  • Muhammad Usman – Dareecha Health Society, Pakistan