Yasir Ali Khan,
Founder of HIV Buddies and Community Coordinator at ReShape/International HIV Partnerships (IHP), Pakistan
Asia Chemsex Platform aims to bring together and share expertise from the Asia region related to harm reduction interventions for men who have sex with men (MSM) engaging in chemsex or sexualized drug use. As one of the ways to take this forward, we aim to organize sets of online webinars to foster interregional collaborations with the community, NGOs, CBOs, and other stakeholders.
We have taken initiative to start a forum that is specific to chemsex issues in Asia at the start of 2020 and Palani Narayanan from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is one of the founders of this newly-formed platform. Currently our working group consists of experts of harm reduction interventions in different countries of Asia, the MENA region and Europe. To name a few, APCOM, International HIV Partnerships (IHP), Lighthouse Social Enterprise (Vietnam) and Mainline Netherlands, along with other notable partners, are members of this strong union.
Since its formation, we’ve conducted two webinars. Both events were very successful, with more than 100 people registered each time from all over the globe (majority are from the Asia region). We supposedly could reach more participants, however, due to the limitation of the Zoom package that we had, we could only cater to a maximum of 100 in each event.
Various participants joined and meaningfully engaged in the Asian Chemsex Platform webinars. Chemsex advocates, ground-level communities, research institutes, and bi- and multilateral donors shared the need to learn more about best practices on chemsex responses in the Asia region. Examples are building evidence, sharing effective interventions, and working on chemsex in criminalized environments (i.e. establishing collaboration with law enforcement, health workers, and local governments). We’ve also received strong regional voices from several UN agencies, which would definitely contribute to a stronger response in the region.
With the collaborative work of the members of the technical working group and support from the Global Fund through Asia Catalyst and Mainline, we are able to develop a website and our first manual on chemsex, which outlining the chemsex landscape and containing list of recommendations of what community organization could do for effective chemsex intervention in Asia.
Also, we were able to advocate for the Global Fund to start the work on the issue of chemsex in Pakistan and UNDP-GF conducted the research. This evidence gathering activity creates a robust advocacy material that is not only portraying the ground realities of the community but at the same time data-driven. Key findings from this research was presented in the national coordination meeting where provincial health officials, national AIDS programmers and other notable stakeholders in Pakistan were in attendance.
This platform has done quite a lot of miraculous things when it comes to raising the awareness of chemsex. Still, due to lack of funding, we don’t have a proper ‘platform’ such as a website, knowledge management hub or other proper channels that could be regarded as our official entities. Nonetheless, we are trying to maximize what we have. With strong commitment from the technical working group – a league of strong advocates – we believe we can provide a better response to this important issue and create a safer environment for the community one step at a time.
About Yasir Ali Khan:
Yasir Ali Khan is a PLHIV and Peer Worker/Activist from Pakistan, with specific focus on Chemsex and Harm Reduction. He runs numerous support groups for the treatment, prevention, and testing of HIV and support groups for the issues of drugs within the community, especially with chemsex practitioners who are infected with HIV. He is representing Pakistan as vice chairperson in Network of Asian People who Use Drugs (NAPUD) and also the part of technical working group of Asia Chemsex Platform.
Yasir started to voice the issues of chemsex in 2018 and created a platform – HIV Buddies and started support groups with the help of HOPE: Have Only Positive Expectations. In 2020 he conducted research work on chemsex issues among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender communities for UNDP Pakistan.